Pharmaceutical Coupon Use Leads to Higher Costs

Coupons are commonly marketed to patients and prescribers to insulate patients from higher costs associated with brand-name drugs. However, these pharmaceutical coupons can reduce generic drug utilization, which can increase costs to payers, providers, and health care systems.

A study found that limiting the use of coupons results in the prescribing of more cost-effective formulary alternatives. The results of the study were presented at the AMCP Annual Meeting during a poster session titled “Changing Prescriber Use of Pharmaceutical Manufacturer Coupons Within a Clinically Integrated Healthcare System.”

Two pharmacists provided education to 163 primary care providers and care managers on the implications of manufacturer coupons. This involved an asynchronous, 15-minute video and an electronic newsletter. Changes were also made in the organizations’ policies for using manufacturer coupons.

Researches used claims data from a large chain pharmacy and compared findings between the pre-education and policy change (September 2015 to September 2016) and post-education implementation and policy changes (June 2017 to June 2018) periods.

Following the educational initiative, coupon utilization decreased by 50% (from 713 to 356) and was associated with a 67% decline in coupon prescription expenditure (from $243,019 to $79,594).

“Educating providers on the cost implications of pharmaceutical manufacturer coupons and implementing policies to limit the use of coupons … improves [the] generic dispensing ratio and per-member, per-month pharmacy cost, and ultimately reduces the overall cost of health care,” the researchers concluded.