Target 11 investigates discount pharmacy card

PITTSBURGH — Many of you have gotten a pharmacy discount card in the mail that promises to save up to 75 percent on prescription drugs.  Since you didn’t order it, you contacted Target 11 to find out what it is and whether it works.  Here’s what Consumer Investigator Robin Taylor found out.

At first, I was skeptical, but after doing some research I concluded the RxRelief Card is the real deal.  It works the same way a coupon would, taking a discount off the full price.

If you don't have insurance, it could save you money on prescription drugs.

The card is free and is accepted at most major pharmacies, but like many things there are pros and cons.

When Larry Lesko got two RxRelief cards in the mail, he and his wife thought about cancelling their insurance because the discount cards sounded like such a good deal.  Before doing that though, he contacted Target 11.

"It looks nice, but what's the catch?  I was kind of skeptical," said Lesko, of West Mifflin.

The letter said he could save up to 75 percent on prescription drugs, with “No fees, no claim forms and no hassles.”

To find out if the RxRelief Card really works, I took it for a test run at Duquesne University's Center for Pharmacy Services and tried it out on 10 popular medications.

On the antidepressant Effexor, I saved 84 percent over the cash price. And I saved 62 percent on the generic blood pressure medication lisinopril.

Yet, the savings weren't as great on many of the other medication. I only saved 13 percent on several other drugs, including the cholesterol drug Plavix.

On average, I saved 23 percent with the RxRelief card.

"It's providing a discount off what we would say is the sticker price of the medication," said Terr Kroh, a pharmacist with the Center for Pharmacy Services.

Saving even a small amount is a lot better than paying the cash price, but not as good as insurance, since most policies cover 80 percent of the cost.

"This really isn't an insurance card.  And I think that's the most important thing to mention upfront, is it's not an insurance card.  It's nothing more than a discount card," said Scott Drab, an associate professor of pharmacy at the University of Pittsburgh.

So clearly, Larry shouldn't cancel his insurance.

I also took a close look at the Healthcare Alliance's privacy policy.  It's the organization behind the RxRelief card, and that’s where I found the catch.  RxRelief card users waive their privacy rights.

It states, “We may share your information with other companies whose products and services may be of interest to you."

Drab told me it's not necessarily a bad thing, if you're receiving marketing materials on products that could help you.

"It might explain that product or alleviate some of the fears," said Drab.

If you have insurance, the RxRelief card doesn't cover co-pays, so for someone like Larry, it doesn't make much sense to use it.

"I don't think we're going to go for this.  Like I said, I was skeptical when I got it," said Lesko.

Here's the bottom line.  If you don't have insurance, the discount card could save you money.

If you're really struggling to pay for your medications, talk to your pharmacist.  There are other programs that could provide even greater discounts.