LOS ANGELES, CA — Los Angeles would become the first city in the nation to create a prescription drug discount program for its residents under a plan tentatively approved by the City Council.
Wednesday’s 14-0 vote, with one member absent, was a political victory for Councilman Antonio Villaraigosa, who is running for mayor.
The program, which needs a second council vote to implement it, “is an idea whose time has come,” Villaraigosa said.
The “LARx” program aims to reduce the cost of prescription drugs to Los Angeles residents by as much as 40 percent and could be a particular benefit to the estimated 40 percent of city residents who lack health insurance.
“Cities are the front line in the prescription drug movement. With gridlock blocking reform in Washington and Sacramento, Los Angeles can become the nation’s first city to negotiate lower cost prescription drugs,” said a statement by Jerry Flanagan of the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights, which helped Villaraigosa draft the plan.
The council voted to have staff develop a bulk purchasing program for prescription drugs. The city would contract with a private “pharmacy benefits manager” to negotiate a discount with drug companies.
“Three-point-six million people have a lot of buying program,” Flanagan said.
Residents could purchase the drugs at a lower price at pharmacies by presenting a city-issued prescription benefit card, which Villaraigosa said might be available for $25 a year.
The program was fashioned on existing county programs on the East Coast.
In New York, the Nassau County program provides a free prescription card to every household in the county with a registered voter.
It has saved residents about $1.1 million in the program’s first four months last year, county Comptroller Howard Weitzman said.