Between ever-increasing tuition fees, new textbooks for the spring semester, rent and record-high gas prices, paying for prescription drugs can seem impossible for a sick college student with a part-time job. However, there are many cheaper alternatives available for those with no insurance or expensive co-pays.

The California Rx Card program, which launched Oct. 1, provides free discount prescription drug cards to any resident of California. The cards can be downloaded at www.californiarxcard.com, and can be used at many local pharmacies, including Rite Aid, Walgreens, Longs Drugs, Target and Save Mart.

Edward Brown, program director for California Rx Card, said that the card can save users up to 75 percent on certain prescription drugs, with average savings of about 30 percent. The program is funded directly through pharmaceutical companies, which decide what kinds of discounts can be given on what drugs.

Brown said that there are 6.7 million documented people in California who are uninsured.

"[The program] is designed mainly for the uninsured. However, a lot of underinsured residents are using it as well," Brown said. "If someone does have coverage ... [but] doesn't have prescription drug benefits, they can use a California Rx Card in place of that."

Brown believes the program can be especially beneficial to college students.

"There are struggling students at every school who don't have insurance, who are ... just getting by," he said.

The University Health Center also provides an inexpensive solution for Fresno State students. The Health Center pharmacy provides prescription medication to students at cost. All students need to take advantage of all that the pharmacy offers is a Fresno State ID card.

Tom Blagg, the pharmacist-in-charge at the Health Center, said that many prescriptions can be filled at the university pharmacy for $4 to $5, while insurance co-pays may charge upwards of $20 to $40.

Students who have insurance can still bring their outside prescriptions to be filled at the Health Center pharmacy. The pharmacy also carries over-the-counter medicine like Tylenol and Midol. They can even special order prescription medications that they don't carry in stock.

"We try to take care of the prescription needs if they have a unique situation," Blagg said.

Consumer Reports also has tips for people in search of cheaper medication. The magazine recommends that consumers switch from brand name drugs to generic drugs when possible, and buy over the counter medications such as Claritin instead of using a prescription allergy medicine like Zyrtec.

When looking to get an expensive prescription filled, students should know their options. A good course of action for students in need of prescription medications would be to compare prices before making a decision of where they will get their prescription filled.

The California Rx Card Web site has a link to a Web site where students can look up the cost of their medication. They can then go to the University Health Center to find out how much the same medication will cost them there.