New medicare website shows inaccurate pricing

The new Medicare Web site with comparative prescription drug pricing contains inaccurate, erroneous information, sponsors of drug discount cards said on Friday. Companies offering the cards said the government and its contractor had posted inaccurate data just hours after the web site launch.

The president of the National Association of Chain Drug Stores, Craig L. Fuller said "In some cases, the numbers may be too low, but in many cases, the numbers are too high."

According to Mr. Fuller the drug prices posted on the site do not reflect all the rebates and discounts available to Medicare recipients.

The vice president of Express Scripts, Stephen E. Littlejohn, said: "Our price for a 30-day supply of Vioxx, an arthritis drug, is listed as $159.32 when it should have been listed as $85.93. Celebrex was listed as $121.55. It should have been $84.78. Premarin was listed as $47.43. It should have been $30.71."

Many other card sponsors expressed similar complaints pointing out that the inaccuracies add to the confusion already surrounding the discount cards and the new law.

A spokeswoman for Walgreens, said, "About half our prices are inaccurate, on the high side."

Express Scripts said: "The Web site may be comparing prices that are not comparable. One drug may have hundreds of prices, depending on the dosage, strength, quantity, package size and other factors. We submitted 60,000 prices for products covered by our card."

The a dministrator of the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, stood by the accuracy of data on the agency's Web site. "We stand by our prices," Dr. McClellan said. "I do believe the prices are accurate."

He said some confusion may result from the fact that pharmacies receive the same drugs in bottles of 500 or 1,000 tablets, in small blister packs and in other containers. Prices typically vary with the package size, he said.

To have a lower price listed on the Web site, Dr. McClellan said, drug card sponsors must guarantee that consumers can get that price at retail pharmacies. Before signing up for a card, he said, beneficiaries should probably wait a few days or weeks, to see if prices are reduced.

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