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Drug Coupons Shrink Patients' Costs Considerably

May undermine benefit managers' attempts to select cost-effective drugs

Drug Coupons Shrink Patients' Costs Considerably

WEDNESDAY, Oct. 22, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Drug coupons could reduce patients' out-of-pocket costs by 60 percent, according to a study published in the October issue of Health Affairs.

Catherine I. Starner, Pharm.D., from Prime Therapeutics in Eagan, Minn., and colleagues utilized an administrative claims database with information on more than 10 million commercially insured patients combined with the drug prescription records from a specialty pharmacy. Focusing on 264,801 prescriptions, the authors examined the prevalence of specialty drug coupons and the degree to which the coupons reduced patients' out-of-pocket costs. The association between the magnitude of out-of-pocket costs for specialty drugs and patients' abandonment of their new or restarted therapy was analyzed in nearly 16,000 patients.

The researchers found that drug coupons accounted for $21.2 million of patients' $35.3 million annual out-of-pocket costs in 2013. Coupons reduced monthly cost sharing to less than $250, a point at which patients were far less likely to abandon therapy (findings with biologic anti-inflammatory drugs or drugs for multiple sclerosis), in the vast majority of cases.

"By reducing cost sharing, coupons may also circumvent efforts to encourage patients to use the most cost-effective drugs," the authors write.

The authors disclosed financial ties to the pharmaceutical industry.

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