A new statewide prescription drug program is growing in popularity as New Hampshire residents receive discounts for medications not covered by their health insurance.

The NH Rx Card was unveiled in October to help the state's approximately 133,000 uninsured residents afford their prescription medications, according to program development director Annie Bass. The program was then extended to assist those whose medications were not covered by insurance.

Now, an estimated 5,000 to 10,000 people participate in the program across the state, Bass said, with some receiving discounts of up to 75 percent for some prescription drugs.

"So far, the response has been wonderful," she said. "Our numbers keep going up."

The program, funded through the pharmaceutical industry and administered by United Networks of America, covers commonly used prescription drugs for psychiatric purposes, weight loss, birth control, smoking cessation and sexual dysfunction.

While many health plans usually require policy holders to pay full price for such prescriptions, New Hampshire residents can now receive a huge break, Bass said.

Several Southern New Hampshire pharmacists said although the program is still new and only a handful of customers use the card each day, those who do are very happy to get discounts they are not used to seeing.

"They love it," said a CVS pharmacist in Salem. "A lot of customers don't have money in this economy."

It's easy for customers to use the card, and processing the transactions does not pose an extra burden for drugstore employees, pharmacists said. There are no applications, or income or age requirements.

"It's just like any other insurance," said another Salem pharmacist.

But approximately a dozen customers outside three area pharmacies last week said they were unfamiliar with program, though some said it sounded like a good idea.

"Any discount is good," Shawn Haggart of Derry said outside Rite Aid in Derry.

The need to publicize the new program is one reason both the public and private sectors are promoting the effort, including the Business and Industry Association and the New Hampshire Medical Society. They are also helping to set up card distribution sites across the state.

"The cost of health care premiums has risen 92 percent since 2000, which is 4.3 times faster than the growth of annual earnings," BIA president Jim Roche said in a statement. "This program is truly helping New Hampshire citizens who are struggling through a difficult economy."

A New Hampshire Rx card can be downloaded from the program's website, www.nhrxcard.com, which also includes pricing information and pharmacy locations. Cards can also be obtained at Shaw's Osco pharmacies.