Go read David Schultz’s piece on coupons offered by drug manufacturers. Here are a few key excerpts.
In the past few years, coupons and discount cards have become nearly ubiquitous for prescription drugs. Such incentives are available for 395 medications, according to a recent report from industry consultant IMS Health. In a similar analysis in 2009, a marketing firm found that only 86 drugs came with coupons.
Drugmakers say the coupons help Americans get the medicine they need. But the insurance industry is concerned that they drive patients toward more expensive brand-name drugs, leaving insurers to cover the full cost, which then gets passed on to consumers in the form of higher premiums. [...]
A recent article in the Journal of the American Medical Association outlined the dramatic effect coupons can have on prices paid by consumers. Using cholesterol-lowering drugs as an example, researchers found that the popular statin Lipitor comes with an average co-pay of $30 a month, compared with a $10-a-month co-pay for simvastatin, a generic drug also used to treat high cholesterol. But with a coupon from Pfizer, the drug’s manufacturer, the co-pay for Lipitor goes down to $4 a month, making it less expensive for the consumer than simvastatin.
It’s a great deal for the patient, but not the insurer. According to the JAMA article, the insurer pays $18 a month for simvastatin and $137 a month for Lipitor. [...]
Drugmakers argue the coupons save money by preventing health problems that occur when patients cannot afford prescribed medications. A 2008 study in JAMA found that 20 percent of Medicare beneficiaries in fair to poor health did not take their medicine as directed because of cost concerns. [...]
According to federal statutes, it is a crime to provide “any remuneration to induce or reward referrals reimbursable by a federal health care program.” Some experts say coupons constitute such remuneration because they encourage consumers to purchase a more expensive product, with the extra cost ultimately falling on taxpayers. A 2010 report from the Congressional Budget Office found that Medicare pays an additional $76 every time a senior chooses a brand-name drug over a generic.