Discount Coupons Wave of the Future When Buying Prescription Drugs reports My Coupon Doc
Experts say coupons and discount cards may work against consumer in the end
In another magazine announcement, drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline announced discount coupons for Advair, a popular inhaler. In a TV ad for Nexium, its manufacturer, AstraZeneca, says that if consumers cannot afford the heartburn drug, the company “may be able to help.”
Coupons and discount cards have become nearly synonymous with prescription drugs over the past few years. According to a recent report from industry consultant IMS Health, such incentives are now available for nearly 395 medications. A marketing firm found that only 86 drugs came with coupons during a similar analysis in 2009.
The coupons help Americans get the medicine they need say the drugmakers. But the insurance industry is concerned that the coupons are forcing insurers to cover the full cost because that they drive patients toward more expensive brand-name drugs, and subsequently get passed to consumers through higher premiums.
“An individual patient who receives a coupon might not realize that, although that particular prescription may cost less that month, overall what it does is to raise costs for everyone, including themselves,” spokeswoman for the industry trade group America’s Health Insurance Plans, Susan Pisano, said.
According to experts, using a coupon or discount card to purchase prescription medication works against efforts to keep federal spending down and may also be counter to federal law for people using Medicare, Medicaid, veterans benefits or any other federal health insurance program.
There is an escalating war between health insurers and the pharmaceutical industry with the latest battle being prescription drug coupons.
To steer their members to less-expensive generics, insurers set high co-pays for brand-name drugs. Companies such as Merck, AstraZeneca, Pfizer, along with many others issue coupons or discount cards that cover that co-pay in response.
The dramatic effect coupons can have on prices paid by consumers was outlined in a recent article in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
Researchers found, using cholesterol-lowering drugs as an example, that the popular statin Lipitor comes with an average co-pay of $30 per month, compared to a $10-per-month co-pay for the generic drug simvastatin, which is also used to treat high cholesterol.
However, the co-pay for Lipitor goes down to $4 per month with a coupon from the drug’s manufacturer, Pfizer, making it less expensive for the consumer than simvastatin is.
The insurer pays $18 a month for simvastatin and $137 a month for Lipitor, according to the JAMA article. While it is great quality deal for the patient, the insurer gets the short straw in the end.
The coupons are designed to get patients to their doctor’s door and request the most expensive drug, says president of the Pharmaceutical Care Management Association, Mark Merritt.
The trade group that Mark Merritt heads represents firms that participate in Part D, Medicare’s drug program, as well as companies that manage prescription benefit plans for private insurance companies.
MyCouponDoc.com (https://www.mycoupondoc.com/) offers total access to all discount coupons for prescription drugs. Prescription drugs can be expensive, so at My Coupon Doc people can get the best deals around to make their trip to the pharmacy a little more enjoyable.
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