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April 1, 2004

State’s new discount drug card program building steam
Gov. Blagojevich announces partnership with Walgreens to provide better discounts and promote Rx Buying Club for seniors Direct negotiations lead to rebate deal with Merck

CHICAGO – Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich today visited the Walgreens pharmacy at 111 South Halsted on Chicago’s near west side to announce significant developments in the state’s effort to help seniors save money on the cost of their prescription medications.  The state is launching a partnership with the nation’s largest retail pharmacy chain to promote and expand Illinois’ new Rx Buying Club, and it just signed a new rebate agreement with drug-maker Merck that will go into effect today.  
“Everyone here knows how expensive prescription drugs can be.  Here in Illinois, we know you need relief – and we know you need it now,” said the Governor. “So in January, we created the Illinois Prescription Drugs Buying Club to help senior citizens save money when they buy their prescription drugs.  The drug club is based on a simple idea: we asked the two million seniors and disabled citizens to join forces with state employees and others covered by the state’s health programs. Together, we can combine all that buying power to negotiate discounts with pharmacies and drug manufacturers.  And the more people who join the club – the more money we can save.”
The new Rx Buying Club is available to all Illinois residents age 65 and over and the disabled.  Members pay a $25 annual administrative fee and in return receive a discount card they can use when purchasing any prescription medication at more than 50,000 participating pharmacies across the United States.  In its first three months, the program has achieved average savings of 21 percent for its 62,450 members.
Walgreens volunteered to become a Level-One pharmacy in the new program, which means it has agreed to offer members of the buying club the deepest discounts available under the plan.
In addition, under the terms of a new agreement, the chain will create and display signs promoting the Rx Buying Club and make applications for the program available in every one of its 457 Illinois locations.  And through May 15, consumers who apply for the discount card at Walgreens will receive a $25 gift certificate to put toward future Walgreens prescription purchases.
“I want to thank Walgreens for being such good corporate citizens, and taking the lead on such an important issue,” said Blagojevich. 
The Governor announced more good news for the prescription discount program: the state reached a deal with drug-manufacturer Merck that will provide additional discounts to Rx Buying Club members above what they’ve been getting since January.  Starting today, April 1, discount card holders will be able to take advantage of additional rebates on the following Merck drugs: Zocor, Singulair, Fosamax, Vioxx, Maxalt, Cozaar, Hyzaar, Proscar, Trusopt and Cosopt.  For example, a 30-tablet package of the popular cholesterol-fighting drug Zocor, which currently sells for $132.99 at Walgreens.com., and costs Rx Club members $121.91, will now cost Rx Club members $101.08 at Walgreens.  That’s a savings of 24 percent off the on-line retail price.
Blagojevich said his administration is in the process of negotiating similar rebates with other drug companies for the Rx Buying Club and for other state-managed health plans.
Also starting today, Rx Club members will be able to log on to the plan’s website, www.illinoisrxbuyingclub.com, to compare the plan’s retail and mail-order prices for the most commonly prescribed drugs in these four classes: Alzheimers, overactive bladder, enlarged prostate and acid reflux or stomach ulcers.  In the near future, the site will contain prices for other classes of drugs as well as full retail price comparisons.
“When we all work together, when we pool our strengths and join forces, we can bring about the kind of change that helps people save money on the things they need, so they have more for the things they want,” the Governor said.
For more information about Illinois’ Rx Buying Club, or to obtain an application, visit a local Walgreens pharmacy or call toll free 866-215-3463, (TYY 866-215-3479), or visit the official website at www.illinoisrxbuyingclub.com.

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