A Louisana-based networking company has launched a program offering a statewide discount drug card for Iowa that's endorsed by former Iowa Hawkeyes head football coach Hayden Fry.

The Iowa Drug Card program (www.iowadrugcard.com), provides average savings of 30 percent on prescription costs and is accepted at more than 50,000 national and regional pharmacies around the country, according to a press release from Iowa Drug Card, which is not a state-sponsored program. The program is administered by United Networks of America, based in Baton Rouge, which has established similar discount programs in approximately 30 states with more than 28.2 million participants.

Among the participating pharmacies in Iowa are Kmart, Walgreen Co., CVS/pharmacy, Rite Aid Corp., Hy-Vee Inc. and many independent pharmacies, the company said. Users must either download a free card, or may access the program without a card by visiting any Kmart pharmacy, which is the program's preferred pharmacy.

The program is intended to help uninsured and underinsured residents afford their prescription medications, but can be used by people who have health insurance coverage with no prescription benefits or by those with plans that don't pay for name-brand drugs. "The people of Iowa need a program like this to help offset rising prescription costs," Fry said in the release.

Various companies are offering discount drug card programs, and Iowans should be careful when considering them, said Tom Temple, executive vice president of the Iowa Pharmacy Association.

"Where these programs typically fail is that they sometimes disrupt the relationship a person has with a pharmacy," he said. "That can have an adverse effect on the benefits a pharmacist can have." The best approach is to work with one pharmacist who maintains a complete personal medication history, and who may also provide access to discount programs, he said.