2011-10-19 / Features

BigAppleRx Helps New Yorkers Save On Medications

BY RICHARD GENTILVISO

More than 800,000 New Yorkers let their prescriptions go unfilled last year because they couldn’t afford them.

At the announcement of BigAppleRx, the city’s first official prescription drug discount card, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said, “All too often, the rising cost of prescription drugs place a burden on New York City households. This is particularly true for the more than one million New Yorkers who don’t have health insurance.”

Since its introduction in May, BigAppleRx has saved New Yorkers more than $1,251,155 on prescription drugs. Designed to reduce the cost of prescription drugs, BigAppleRx is available to everyone living, working or visiting New York City, regardless of age, income, citizenship or health insurance status. The little red and white card requires no application forms, fees or personal information and can be used by the whole family. It is accepted at 90 percent of pharmacies in the five boroughs and can be used even if the card holder already has prescription drug coverage, but it cannot be used in combination with any other discount card or other insurance.

“This card is a real service that can help many prescription drug users,” Queens Borough President Helen Marshall said at a September 20 BigAppleRx presentation to the borough cabinet.

In Queens through August 31, 4,327 claims were made using BigAppleRx at a combined retail price of $340,539. With a BigAppleRx discount, prescriptions were reduced to $166,177 for a total savings of $174,462 (49 percent). There were even greater savings for generic drugs (65 percent) over brand names (17 percent). Daily savings were $1,645 a day.

More than half of BigAppleRx users in Queens are age 50 and over and 85 percent of their prescriptions are used for generic drugs, commonly for hypertension and antibiotics at stores like CVS, Duane Reade, Walgreens, RiteAid and Target.

“There are a lot of people here in Queens that we can help,” Joseph Chiera, a regional vice president for Discount Healthcare, part of HealthTrans Access, told the cabinet.

BigAppleRx is a city initiative administered by HealthTrans Access, a national manager of pharmacy benefits, and overseen by the city Department of

Health and Mental Hygiene.

The program is run at no cost to the city. HealthTrans provides and distributes the cards, promotes the program, runs the Web site and offers customer service and data reporting. HealthTrans gets an administrative fee for each prescription that is filled using BigAppleRx.

HealthTrans representatives said that although the card is not insurance, it can be a necessary benefit for uninsured and unemployed individuals and their families. Individuals with drug insurance should check with their insurer about any applicable benefit to using the card or whether cash receipts from BigAppleRx purchases can be used to meet a plan deductible.

BigAppleRx can be used for all prescription medications and for some over-thecounter medications, including aids to stop smoking and diabetic supplies, as long as the customer has a valid prescription for them.

Visit www.bigapplerx.com to obtain a card or call 311 and ask for the BigAppleRx discount card.

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