Prescription drug-coupon plan passes House, heads to Senate

Prescription drug-coupon plan passes House, heads to Senate [The Sun, Lowell, Mass.]

From Sun (Lowell, MA) (May 21, 2010)


May 21--BOSTON -- Coupon clipping for prescription drugs has moved a step closer to being legal in Massachusetts, potentially giving seniors and other patients a chance to save on necessary, but expensive brand name drugs.

The legislation, pushed in recent months by Rep. Thomas Golden, D-Lowell, and others, won the unanimous support of the House this week and will now go before the Senate for approval.

"This is a huge win for people to help them with the affordability of their prescription drugs," Golden said yesterday. "It's been a long time coming and it's definitely going to give some relief to the residents of the Commonwealth."

The ban on drug coupons in Massachusetts stems from a 1972 federal anti-kickback law that prevents bribes and other payments from going to health-care providers to limit the influence of drug companies over health-care decisions.

The broad law has been interpreted up until now in Massachusetts to include prescription coupons.

Critics also argue that coupons are an unfair marketing tool for major drug companies to push more expensive brand-name drugs over less-expensive generics.

"There's no indication that this will drive up costs in Massachusetts because we have already have a law mandating generic drugs be used when available. That's cost argument is just not true," Golden said.

Golden last winter sent letters to Gov. Deval Patrick and House Speaker Robert DeLeo urging them to consider lifting the ban on coupons

that doctors often give to patients to reduce co-payments for brand-name drugs when cheaper generics are not available.

Massachusetts is currently the only state in the country that bans drug coupons.

The bill that passed the House on Wednesday was filed by Rep. Peter Koutoujian, D-Waltham, though several other similar pieces of legislation had been filed this session.

Rep. Jennifer Benson, D-Lunenburg, voted in favor of lifting the ban, and applauded the overwhelming vote taken by her colleagues.

"Residents are looking to save money any way they can," said Benson. "This legislation helps consumers, especially those with chronic conditions, save on their prescription costs which will encourage compliance to medical orders which can improve lives and decrease health care spending."

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Copyright (c) 2010, The Sun, Lowell, Mass.

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Posted: May 2010


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