- 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 manufacturers' websites, often after going through a registration process. Patients may also obtain coupons from physicians' offices, where they may be distributed in lieu of samples. Coupons are redeemed when the drug is purchased at the pharmacy, although some require that a physician submit certain information — or instruct patients to bring the coupon to their physician to request a prescription for the specified medication, a behavior associated with an increased likelihood of brand-specific prescribing.
According to a report from IMS Health, coupons were available for nearly 400 brand-name pharmaceutical products in 2011,2 and drug-coupon use had increased by more than 50% in the previous year alone, although coupons were still used for less than 5% of brand-name prescriptions dispensed in the United States. Other analysts have calculated that coupons were used for approximately 100 million dispensed prescriptions in 2010 — about 11% of prescriptions for brand-name drugs. (Más)