Herald News

Comparison Shopping For Prescription Drugs Comes To New Jersey

Herald News / NorthJersey.com — Monday, October 29, 2007

Associated Press Writer

PLAINSBORO (AP) — Isaac Luster needs seven prescription drugs, which, after Medicare's coverage, costs him and his wife $500 a month out of their own pocket.

That's why the Lusters were enthused Friday that they can now comparison shop for prescription drugs through a new state Web site allowing New Jerseyans to compare pharmacy prices for the 150 most commonly prescribed medications.

The Monroe Township couple estimated the site will save them 15 percent a month on the 72-year-old's prescriptions.

"When you're talking about more than $500, 15 percent is a nice amount," said 70-year-old Norma Luster. "To me, it's great."

New Jersey Gov. Jon S. Corzine on Friday joined the AARP to announce the launching of the new registry. The site is available through www.njconsumeraffairs.gov and consumers can call a toll-free number -- 1-800-242-5846 -- to get the same information.

Corzine took a spin on the Web site Friday at AARP's Plainsboro headquarters and said he found $40 differences for the cholestoral drug Lipitor in different New Brunswick pharmacies.

Meanwhile, Trenton-area prices for the osteoporosis drug Fosamax ranged from $17.52 to $46.53 per pill, while prices for allergy drug Zyrtec ranged from $2.09 per pill to $7.41 per pill.

"This is clear common sense that leads to a better prepared and more knowledgeable consumer," said Corzine, who last year signed a bill creating the registry.

The idea is to let consumers find the pharmacy in their area with the lowest price for a drug, with the registry updated weekly.

While it shows the highest and lowest prices for a drug throughout the state, it only lists pharmacies within the zip code entered into the database.

The Web site and the toll-free number are offered in English and Spanish.

New Jersey follows New York, Maryland, Illinois and Florida in creating such a Web site. New York officials say its site has helped consumers save $17 per prescription on average.

Corzine estimated the New Jersey site could save consumers 20 percent.

"Consumers have the right to know up front what their drugs cost, just as they do their groceries or their gas," said Sy Larson, AARP's New Jersey president.

The cost of prescription drugs has become especially important for those people, like Isaac Luster, who fall into Medicare's coverage gap.

Under Medicare's rules, the Lusters paid 75 percent of his prescription drug costs, until those costs reached $2,250. Then now foot the entire bill until his drug costs reach $5,100, when Medicare kicks back in. Altogether it works out to $500 a month, the Lusters said.

Consumer advocate group New Jersey Citizen Action has estimated 20 percent of uninsured New Jerseyans require at least one prescription drug, with 65,000 uninsured residents requiring four prescription drugs. The state has an estimated 1.4 million residents without health insurance.

"We've found that when it comes to making prescription drugs more affordable, the old saying, 'Knowledge is power,' is really true," said Sen. Barbara Buono, D-Middlesex.

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