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City Could Help Patients Save Up To 40 Percent On Prescription Meds

Villaraigosa says he'll take bulk-purchasing scheme statewide.

Los Angeles County residents could see savings of up to 40 percent on prescription medicine under a bulk-purchasing drug program announced Monday by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.

Saying he had to overcome four years of objections by city bureaucracy, Villaraigosa pledged to launch an effort to implement the cost-savings plan statewide.

"I told them we wanted something that would be at no cost, with free enrollment," Villaraigosa said at a news conference at the Montecito Heights Senior Citizen Center before an audience of about two dozen seniors and their grandchildren.

The program, known as LARX, will provide a membership card to all residents of Los Angeles County and beyond to take advantage of savings ranging from 5 percent to 40 percent, officials said.

"I'm going to take this statewide," Villaraigosa said. "I'm going to talk to the governor about this. I'm going to talk to every mayor in the state. There is no reason this program can't be in effect everywhere."

Villaraigosa first began talking about a drug discount program when he was a member of the City Council and has been working on it since then, he said.

Finally, he said, he was able to overcome objections and reach agreement with Envision Pharmaceutical Services to develop the new program.

Envision, based in Ohio, has agreements with more than 1,500 pharmacies in the Los Angeles area who will honor the card - which features a photo of Villaraigosa with a number of residents - to get the discounts on most prescription drugs. Envision said it will honor cardholders anywhere in the state and at its pharmacies nationwide.

Kevin Nagle, president of Envision, said the firm has similar programs in operation around the country - most notably Ohio and Florida - and is able to provide the service with a small pharmacy dispensing fee.

"We are completely transparent about our programs and are able to do this through bulk buying," Nagle said. "We look at ourselves like the Costco for medications."

The cards will be available at all parks and recreation centers, libraries and in the upcoming Department of Water and Power bills. There is no sign-up fee and no limitations on the use of the card.

Also, people can download the card at www.forlarx.com, which also has information on participating pharmacies and examples of drug prices. A hotline is available 24 hours a day at 1-877-367-5279.

"This is something that President Obama hasn't been able to accomplish," said Jamie Court, president of Consumer Watchdog. "Los Angeles is now the gold standard among major American cities in creating big savings on prescription drugs."

Villaraigosa said he began work on the program because of complaints he had received from seniors over the cost of drugs and his longtime interest in health matters.

"I agree with the president that health care is a right," said Villaraigosa, who talked about his four-year effort to get the Healthy Childrens Program developed for the state and which now covers 900,000 young people.

"We are limited to what we can do as a city on health care, but this is something that will help everyone."