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Program Could Bring Cheaper Prescription Meds, Profits

Reprinted with permission: Amador Ledger Dispatch

Jackson, Ca — In a possible win-win scenario, local residents might get to buy prescription medication more cheaply while putting money in the coffers of a strapped county government.

An average 38 percent discount could be available for residents who sign up for a county-sponsored program, the subject of a workshop discussion by elected Amador officials Tuesday afternoon.

Although sounding too good to be true, county supervisors learned it’s all legal, as they heard the nuts and bolts of the plan, discovered by District 1 Supervisor John Plasse at a California State Association of Counties function.

Nationally, firms, including a Florida-based company called Coast2CoastRx, have seized on a way to share in a little-known revenue stream called a dispensing fee. Coast2Coast is interested in having Amador County join in its share.

"We would have to contract with them, and we would get a 50-cent kickback on each prescription transaction," explained Lisa Gaebe, a county human resources technician.

However, at the same time, residents who would use a county-issued discount card would receive drug discounts ranging from pennies to 90 percent of prescription cost, depending on medication, company officials said in a conference call with supervisors. An average discount would be 38 percent, they said.

Drug discount companies nationally are able to muster a sufficient customer base that entices pharmacists, seeking volume, to have an interest in sharing the dispensing fee paid by pharmaceutical companies.

"The dispensing fee pays for the service of a pharmacist in explaining to a customer how to use a particular drug," Gaebe said. "The amount is proprietary, but according to explanations I’ve heard, it may be up to $6 per transaction."

Company officials said during the conference call with supervisors that they’re eager to visit Amador to pitch the idea to residents. Residents throughout the county could obtain a Coast2Coast discount card usable at any of a stable of pharmacists that Coast2Coast has signed with locally, including corporate and independent drugstores, according to the company’s presentation.

The formula is not simple, but it could be a prescription for mutual aid between the county and residents.

"The store keeps one part of the dispensing fee, and another part goes to a benefits manager, who splits it with us, and we split it with you," said Marty Dettelbach, chief marketing officer of Coast2CoastRx.

Plasse said being able to competently roll out the program was important in such a potential deal. "I noticed the completeness of (a competitor’s) public relations packet," the supervisor noted.

Dettelbach said his company would visit clinics and pharmacies in Amador County to present details of any agreement with the county and would advertise liberally to residents concerning any agreement.