Sunday, June 17, 2012

Bring On The Coupons!

Most persons with insurance that includes a pharmacy benefit are probably very familiar with co-pays.  Those out-of-pocket expenses not only reduce the insurers' costs, but are a powerful tool that can incentivize the choice of a month's supply of an otherwise equivalent generic (for $5) versus an expensive brand medicine (for $30).

But suppose the brand drug manufacturer fights back with a $30 coupon?

That's the topic of this JAMA paper by David Grande. While the coupons could be prohibited as "kickbacks," can be suddenly stopped and are often given on-line in exchange for otherwise private patient information, the main argument against them is that they substantially increase insurer costs.  As a result, Dr. Grande recommends that physicians resist the allure of giving their patients any coupons and that pharmaceutical companies find other ways to reduce patients' out of pocket costs.

The DMCB has another idea that is going unmentioned by JAMA.  Why not suggest that insurers compete should against the manufacturers' coupons with their own coupons?  Competition may eat into the insurers' bottom lines but the patients will win.

Patient interests: That's the point, right?

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