Medications and prescriptions drugs in general can be highly expensive, and that is why offers like $50 off of pills through coupons can be so enticing. However, skipping the deals could likely save money overall say some experts.
A new survey by Consumer Reports found that nearly one in every seven Americans who take regularly take drugs utilize coupons or coupon codes. A 2012 survey by the institute of Health Informatics noted that the use of certain prescription drug coupons saw an increase of over 50% from the year prior.
However, the coupons don't seem to be having the universal effect of lowering prices, according to a new study from the New England Journal of Medicine. It found that 62% of over 370 drugs that offered coupons are for the name-brand versions only. With the name brand type of medication, one tends to spend more money than one would by utilizing generics.
In other words, by using the coupons one is already deciding to spend more than is necessary if one chose a generic drug instead. “Despite the short-term savings achievable with coupons, they do not offset higher long-term costs, because they’re nearly always time-delimited,” the study authors write.
Of course, one could switch to a generic drug, but most patients balk at the idea, and by then “patients may have developed loyalty to the particular brand or may be skeptical about switching away from a medication that they perceive as effective — or they may not even be aware of alternative therapies,” the authors write. What’s more, “physicians have been slow to switch patients from brand-name medications to available generic versions.”
What is more, insurance totals can rise when overuse of coupons is systemic. With more deductions being made on would-be totals collected by companies, insurance companies are losing money as they still pay the high costs of name-brand versions of the medication. “The more that patients use drug coupons to obtain brand-name medications when lower-cost alternatives are available, the more expenses will rise for their insurers,” the authors write. “A predictable response from the insurers would be to raise coverage rates for all patients.”