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Drug coupons still not a good deal

Drug coupons still not a good deal

June 11, 2010

While everyone wants less expensive drugs, is giving in to pharma's marketing tactics the way the go? That's one of the questions  highlighted by a recent letter to the editor in the Newburyport News. The letter looked at the prescription drug "coupon" bill that passed the House.  H. 4689 would permit drug discount coupons in the Commonwealth. Sounds appealing, but  there are many unanswered questions:

"If a pharmaceutical company can afford to sell a drug for less (as it did for Joe, with his coupon), why doesn't it sell it for less to everyone, without coupons? Are other patients subsidizing the cost of Joe's coupon? Most important, what effect do coupons from drug companies that "help" people to buy name brands have on everyone's insurance premiums, and on the cost of health care?"

Prescription drug coupons are a marketing tool.  They are used by pharmaceutical companies to expand the use of brand-name drugs.  Drug coupons are a way to entice consumers into purchasing more expensive brand-name drugs, where the biggest beneficiaries are the drug companies. Once the initial supply of coupons in exhausted, the consumer is left paying the high co-pay for the duration of the prescription- a costly prospect.

Prescription drug coupons will also hinder critical cost-containment efforts in the Commonwealth because, like any marketing tool, they induce patients to favor brand-name drugs. Increased brand name drug use will result in an increase in overall prescription drug expenditures in the state. 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 annually.

Prescription drug coupons seem like a good deal, but there are too many unanswered questions.  We know one thing: prescription drug coupons will increase the profits of pharmaceutical companies at the expense of consumers and employers.

We urge the Senate to not pass H. 4689.