Corzine Approves Drug Cost Web Site

CourierPostOnline – Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Courier-Post Staff

New Jerseyans in need of prescription medication will be able to comparison shop for less expensive drugs using a state-run Web site under a bill signed into law Monday by Gov. Jon S. Corzine.

The Web site will list pharmacy-by-pharmacy retail prices for the 150 most frequently prescribed drugs.

"This is a great day," Corzine said in signing the bill at an East Brunswick senior citizens center. "We are actually moving government, moving public policy, in a direction that actually impacts people's lives."

The law takes effect in 90 days. Seniors with access to a computer or a phone will be able to visit a Web site to see the registry or call a toll-free hotline to find the lowest prices for their medications at nearby pharmacies.

In addition, pharmacies in the state will be required to keep a printed list of their prices for drugs and to provide that list to consumers upon request.

The new law should help the many senior citizens who fall into Medicare Part D prescription coverage's much dreaded "doughnut hole" – an expense threshold that requires seniors who've reached a coverage gap to pay the full cost of their drugs for a period of time.

"People think the doughnut hole only applies to their co-pay (expenditures), but it applies to the total cost of the drug, and depending on where they get their prescriptions filled, they could reach it sooner," said John Covelle, spokesman for the Independent Pharmacy Alliance, an agency that represents independently owned pharmacies in New Jersey and New York City.

The new law should also help New Jersey residents who lack prescription coverage, because it would allow them to find the cheapest price before taking their prescriptions to a pharmacy, said consumer advocates.

Steven Magaziner, owner of Magaziner's Covered Bridge Pharmacy in Cherry Hill, said he's concerned about timeliness and accuracy of the listings.

"We tried for about five years to provide pricing on our own Web site, but we had to take it down because the prices changed so often it was a problem keeping up with the listings," he said.

The Web site will be established and maintained by the state's Division of Consumer Affairs. It's estimated the state will have to spend $322,000 to create the Web site this year and $72,000 per year to run it.

Gannett News Service contributed to this report.

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