Novartis expands discount program to include eyecare medicines

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) – Swiss drugs giant Novartis AG said on Thursday that it has expanded its Novartis Care Card program to include three of the company's eyecare products.

The Care Card program offers low-income seniors with no prescription coverage a number of Novartis' drugs at a 25% discount to wholesale price.

Novartis unveiled the program in November as a way to make drugs – including the high blood pressure medicine Diovan (valsartan), the Alzheimer's disease therapy Exelon (rivastigmine tartrate) and the cholesterol-fighter Lescol (fluvastatin sodium) — affordable to poor senior citizens.

Now Care Card participants can also receive the discount on three Novartis Ophthalmics products: the glaucoma drug Rescula (unoprostone isopropyl), the itchy eye treatment Zaditor (ketotifen fumarate) and the anti-inflammatory agent Voltaren Ophthalmic.

To qualify for the program, consumers must be aged 65 or over, have an annual income of less than 300% of the federal poverty level and have no alternate drug coverage. Under those guidelines, about 10 million Americans could receive the card, according to Novartis.

Other large drugmakers have enacted similar programs. In October, Britain's GlaxoSmithKline Plc. said it had started a program to grant low-income seniors a discount of between 25% and 30% on its medicines. In January, New York City-based Pfizer Inc. announced that it would offer poor Medicare enrollees any of its drugs at a flat $15 rate for a 30-day supply.

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