AJC Watchdog: First Alert

Keeping watch on those who hold the public trust and money

Gwinnett omits key details in touting discount drug program

Gwinnett County just announced that it has launched a program with Coast2Coast Rx to offer so-called prescription drug discount cards to residents. In its newsletter sent to residents, the county says the cards are free and will offer residents  discounts not only on prescriptions but also on dental, vision, lab services and medical supplies - even healthcare for your pets. The county also assures worried taxpayers that the cards cost the county nothing!

Here's what Gwinnett didn't say: The county gets a cut every time a prescription is filled or other purchases are made. And, as the AJC reported in 2013, the "discount" price for drugs through the cards may be higher than retail. The AJC compared prices for 5 commonly used drugs and their generics. Reporters Misty Williams and Jaime Sarrio found that while the cards may offer lower prices than some chain pharmacies, cheaper prices could be found at independent pharmacies and Costco.

Gwinnett isn't the first to endorse the cards; Cobb, Cherokee and DeKalb counties, among others, already tout the same deals for residents. Critics say they are troubled by government endorsement of the cards, questioning whether government officials really have public interest at heart, or if they are simply willing to swap their name for a revenue boost. Coast2Coast, operated by the for-profit marketing company called Financial Marketing Concepts, pays some local governments $1.25 for each prescription filled.


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About the Author

Lois Norder is Senior Editor for Investigations in the newsroom at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.