Mass. debates Rx coupons

BOSTON —People looking to save a few extra dollars can get coupons for their prescription drugs for use in retail pharmacies from the drug manufacturers’ Web sites or through their physicians.

That’s true for everyone in the country—except residents of Massachusetts. There, a decades-old law designed to keep drug companies from competing against health insurers bans the use of drug coupons, the idea being that coupons would interfere with co-payments set by insurers that gave patients financial incentives to use the least expensive products.

Recently, members of Massachusetts’ state House introduced the prescription discount bill, which would do away with the old law. Massachusetts Independent Pharmacists Association executive director Todd Brown said he was confident the bill would pass this year. “It’s definitely gaining support,” Brown said. A number of groups have banded together to support the legislation under the MassRxHelp.org banner.

By helping reduce the costs of drugs, Brown said, coupons would help increase adherence. “We feel that pharmaceutical companies have a really big financial incentive to get patients to increase adherence to medication,” Brown said. “We think that’s a win-win situation for everyone.”

Brown said that, contrary to some arguments against the bill that have arisen, the law would not change the current requirement for generic substitutions. “Some people think that it would lead patients to higher-priced drugs,” Brown said. “We don’t feel that’s the case.”

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