(Providence) – A free statewide prescription drug card program launched yesterday offers discounts on both generic and brand-name medications.

Rhode Island Rx (RIRx) – available to all Rhode Islanders – offers average savings of about 30 percent off regular retail prices, according to the Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce. The Chamber, one of the program's top backers, is working to raise awareness of the cards and encourage people to enroll.

To participate, Rhode Island residents just need to go to www.RIRx.com; fill out a short form with their name and e-mail address; and print out the free card. Cards also may be obtained at CVS/pharmacy stores across the state, by asking the pharmacist about RIRx.

CVS has been selected as the "preferred" pharmacy for the Rhode Island program. But the cards will be accepted at more than 50,000 drug stores nationwide, including Discount Place Pharmacy in East Providence, Pharmacare Specialty Pharmacy in Providence, and the Hannaford Food and Drug, Shaw's Osco, Stop & Shop, Target, Walgreens and WalMart pharmacy chains.

RIRx is part of a national prescription-drug assistance initiative that links various statewide prescription discount programs, the Chamber said

The point-of-sale discount program was launched primarily to help the uninsured. And people who receive their medicines through charity care providers – such as 340B, a federally funded program that grants discounts to providers – may use the card to obtain a lower price on drugs not available through those providers.

But the discount cards also can be used by people whose health plans don't include prescription benefits; those whose health insurance has a high deductible; people with health savings accounts (HSAs); those who are in the "doughnut hole" of Medicare Part D plans; and those who need a prescription drug not covered by their insurance plan.

RIRx offers additional savings, as well: Through it, participants gain to other discount programs including the VitaminSavingsPlan.com, Diabetic Savings Plan, ProSmile, QualSight, 25DollarEyeglasses.net, USHearingPlan.com and PetMedAmerica.com.

There is no cost to join RIRX – and there are no enrollment forms, no restrictions, no waiting periods, no eligibility limits, no formularies (restricted lists of medications a plan covers) and no exclusions involved. RIRx will not share, sell or distribute personal information for any reason, the Chamber added.

"The cost of health care is a top concern for Rhode Island's residents," Laurie White, president of the Chamber, said in announcing the discount plan. "With unemployment on the rise due to the stalling economy, many individuals and families are finding themselves without health insurance. RIRx is designed to give our residents access to much-needed health-care cost savings."