Bottle of pills

“When Valeant Pharmaceuticals International ran a TV ad after this year’s Emmy Awards broadcast featuring actor Mario Lopez promoting its new antifungal toe treatment, Jublia, the spot drew some barbs,” Cynthia Koons and Robert Langreth write in Bloomberg Business. “But it’s also lured plenty of curious consumers who heeded the company’s invitation to visit the drug’s website for savings. There they found an online coupon that promised no out-of-pocket costs for eligible patients. That’s a great deal for consumers, because the prescription medicine costs more than $1,000 for an 8-milliliter bottle. It’s an offer many of their insurers would prefer to refuse. Jublia’s marketing tack is part of a high-stakes game of chicken in which insurance companies raise copays on some drugs to as high as $100 to discourage their use, only to see pharmaceutical companies pick up the tab for those copays — seeking to leave insurers on the hook for the balance, often in the hundreds and sometimes thousands of dollars per monthly prescription. ‘It is a brilliant marketing strategy’ on Big Pharma’s part, says Adriane Fugh-Berman, an associate professor of pharmacology and physiology at Georgetown University, who’s been a paid witness in lawsuits against some drug companies. She calls the practice an ‘insidious’ way to circumvent insurance companies and employers who increasingly are trying to get patients to share the pain of soaring drug prices. Valeant didn’t respond to requests for comment. In 2015 the pharmaceutical industry will spend an estimated $7 billion — up from just $1 billion in 2010 — to hand out coupons and discount cards to cover some or all patient copayments for drugs from fibromyalgia pain treatments to brand-name diabetes pills, according to data from IMS Health Holdings.” Cynthia Koons and Robert Langreth, “That Drug Coupon Isn’t Really Clipping Costs,” Bloomberg Business.

Jeanne Pinder

Jeanne Pinder  is the founder and CEO of ClearHealthCosts. She worked at The New York Times for almost 25 years as a reporter, editor and human resources executive, then volunteered for a buyout and founded...