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Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Prescription-Drug Coupons — No Such Thing as a Free Lunch

The cost of pharmaceuticals prescribed in workers' compensation claims remains a seriously advancing cost to the system.  Employers blame injured workers for the cause and the demand. Is the actual demand being driven by the pharmaceutical industry? The following is shared from The New England Journal of Medicine

Visit nearly any official website for a brand-name drug available in the United States and, mixed in with links to prescribing and safety information, you'll find links to drug “coupons,” including copayment-assistance programs and monthly savings cards.

Most offers are variations on “Why pay more? With the [drug] savings card, you can get [drug] for only $18 per prescription if eligible” or “Get a free 30-capsule trial of [drug] with your doctor's prescription and ask your doctor if [drug] is right for you.” Why do manufacturers offer drug coupons? Are they good for patients in the long run? Are they even legal?

Commercial drug-insurance plans typically have tiered pharmaceutical formularies to guide prescription-drug use, requiring relatively small patient copayments (approximately $5 to $15) for inexpensive generic drugs and higher copayments (perhaps $25 to $100) for brand-name drugs. Manufacturers use coupons to reimburse patients for this difference in copayments when they buy brand-name medications, so that, for people with commercial insurance coverage, the out-of-pocket costs are the same as those for generic drugs.

Drug coupons are implemented through subsidies paid by drug manufacturers. Patients nearly always print coupons off...
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Joseph S. Ross, M.D., and Aaron S. Kesselheim, M.D., J.D., M.P.H.
N Engl J Med 2013; 369:1188-1189 September 26, 2013 DOI: 10.1056/NEJMp1301993