Legislature Considers Discount Coupons For Drugs

By Sarah Birnbaum

Oct. 25, 2011

The cost of prescription drugs can be crippling. (Food and Drug Administration)

BOSTON — A Massachusetts Legislature committee held a public hearing Tuesday on a controversial bill that would allow drug manufacturers to offer discounts on brand-name drugs. 
The cost of prescription drugs can break the bank. For some patients, the outlay runs as high as $200 a month, even when they have insurance.

In other states, drug companies will offer consumers coupons to help reduce the cost of the drugs. But not in Massachusetts — the only state in the nation where drug coupons are not allowed. 

Dr. Katherine Upchurch, a practicing rheumatologist in Worcester, said that some of her patients take seven, eight or even nine medications, each with its own co-pay. Some can’t afford it. Thus they skimp on their drugs.

"They actually sometimes have to sort out which drug helps them the most, or which drug they know they must take for long-term effects, and drop the ones they don’t,” she said.

Critics of the bill, however, warn that often these coupons offer only one-time savings and say that they can be a ploy by drug companies to hook people on costly brand-name drugs instead of cheaper generics. 

A similar bill passed in both the Massachusetts House and Senate last session but then stalled in conference committee.

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