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Drug Makers Cheat Insurance Companies with Patient Co-Pay Coupons

Drug prices are on the rise, and many drug companies are helping patients with their co-payments. The use of co-payment cards and other discounts has more than tripled since mid-2006. But this is not as benign as you might think.

Health insurers and consumer groups say that in many cases, the coupons are marketing gimmicks that actually lead to an overall increase in health care costs. They circumvent the system used by insurers to steer consumers to products that are less expensive, but often equally effective. Instead, the consumers buy the costly brand-name drugs sold by the company issuing the card, apparently at low cost. But they will likely pay that cost in their insurance premiums in the long run.

The New York Times reports:

"[An] acne drug that produced higher costs ... [for an] Albany insurance company was Solodyn, a once-a-day formulation of an antibiotic called minocycline. A month's supply of Solodyn sells for more than $700 ... compared with about $40 a month for capsules of generic minocycline ... [a] co-payment card is used by an 'overwhelming majority' of patients, and is largely responsible for doubling use of the drug ... Any shift to brand-name drugs can have a big impact on health care costs."

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