Who Gets Helped By Prescription Drug Coupons?

“[Prescription drug coupons are] a marketing tool, which pharmaceutical companies use to introduce and expand the use of brand-name drugs,” according to GIC Executive Director Dolores Mitchell, commenting in yesterday’s Herald on the latest attempts to override the existing ban on these programs in Massachusetts. We agree.

At issue is H. 4320, which would permit prescription drug coupons in the Commonwealth. Proponents argue that they would cut out-of-pocket costs for prescription drugs. However, the number of consumers who could benefit from these coupons is extremely uncertain and there is clear financial harm in lifting the ban. Drug coupons are a way to entice consumers into purchasing more expensive brand-name drugs, where the biggest beneficiaries are the drug companies. Additionally, once the initial supply of coupons in exhausted, the consumer is left paying the high co-pay for the duration of the prescription.

Prescription drug coupons will hinder critical cost-containment efforts in the Commonwealth because, like any marketing tool, they will cause consumers to use brand-name drugs. The result will be that overall prescription drug expenditures in the state will rise. Prescription drugs account for 10-12% of health insurance premiums and lifting the ban will cause premiums to rise even higher than they are projected to rise. It should be noted that the federal government does not allow prescription drug coupon use for Medicare and Medicaid patients. Drug companies should lower the cost of medications so that patients can receive true savings.
-April Seligman

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7 Responses to Who Gets Helped By Prescription Drug Coupons?

  1. Some argue that a patient may want to continue taking a patented drug after the free trial period, but not be able to pay for it. Patented drugs can carry a high price tag and insurance companies may not be willing to pay if there is a cheaper alternative. This is especially true for newer medications.

  2. Brenda Stubblefield says:

    Your article memtion that the federal government does not allow prescription drug coupon use for Medicare and Medicaid patients. I’ve heard this several times before, but is unable to locate what specific regulation or government guidance indicates this. Where might a beneficiary find support of this rule, and why it is in place?

  3. Mary says:

    What proof do you have that the coupons will make it more expensive for the citizens of our great state? Are the per capita drug expenditures in our commonwealth lower than comparable states?

    If you can prove that coupons make us spend more block the bill. However, it seems like you have a dogmatic, visceral opposition with little objective data to back it up.

  4. Let’s remember that for some disease states there are not many effective treatment options. If there are no generic alternatives, brand name may be the only option? Perhaps the drug companies are helping consumers by discounting or giving promotional discounts for products that wouldn’t normally be covered under formulary? If a consumer does use the Brand product and it is subsequently ineffective, the consumer at least got to try the the product, free of charge. They say the 1st tablet that reaches the market can be worth up to hundreds of millions of dollars? With all the research and rigorous trials involved, not to mention the actual manufacturing of product…..it isn’t cheap. If a product happens to fail, MILLIONS of are lost revenue, as well as potential law suits could be devastating to a Pharma company? There are many sides/angles to this complicated issue to be discussed and I believe all sides agree the consumer should ultimately be the beneficiary?

  5. Georgia says:

    Unfortunately, coupons cannot be used for Medicare members. Medicare will not allow it- so seniors would not be able to benefit from a change in this law.

  6. Sara says:

    One of the drugs I take has no generic. I have tried all of the other cheaper drugs for the same problem including generics and none took care of the problem. Had this law been repealed my cost would have been cut in half for 12 months. Senior citizens would greatly benefit from this law being repealed. It is a well known fact that generic drugs are not necessarily the answer and many do not work as well as their non generic counter parts. Fifty-one states do not prevent the use of such coupons. Massachusetts is the only one to appose this.

  7. Paul mc says:

    I have no issue with taking generic drugs. There are very few instances where the “brand-name” drugs are actually necessary as the generics usually have the same chemical composition.
    The truth is that ‘Big Pharma’ has actually benefited from the recent healthcare reform vote and their profits were not substantially reduced.

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