This weeks Senate budget debate will include two amendments to allow pharma industry marketing of “coupons” for brand name drugs – amendments 503 by Senator Michael Moore, and 446, sponsored by Senator Tarr and three other Republicans. A similar provision already passed in the House, where it was buried in a consolidated amendment with numerous other provisions.
These amendments would open up a whole new marketing ploy for pharma. 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. Coupons are already banned by Medicare and Medicaid, and the Commonwealth’s longstanding policy in this area should be maintained.
These issues were clearly explained, and humanized, in a fabulous This American Life report. NPR’s Planet Money reporter calls drug coupons part of an escalating arms race, as the drug industry tries every way possible to market its high-margin drugs. The story provides an example of an acne drug that costs over $600 more than the generic version, because the manufacturer adds a wipe to the package – a wipe you can buy over the counter for $10. The story tells how the coupons used to be distributed solely to doctors, but now are marketed directly to patients (low-rent example).
Well worth a listen.