Drug Companies, Consumer Groups Debate Promotions
Pharmaceutical companies say coupons, rebates and similar promotions for brand-name prescription drug can reduce costs for patients and allow them to take new medications, but consumer groups maintain that such promotions can attract patients to risky and unnecessary medications without a reduction in their long-term costs, Reuters/Boston Globe reports.
More than 20 consumer groups have partnered to seek an FDA ban on such promotions. Earlier this year, FDA said in a notice, "Prescription drugs promoted with coupons or free trials may be seen as more widely indicated, more appropriate and/or less risky than they really are."
However, FDA spokesperson Julie Zawisza said that the agency later withdrew the notice and has begun to "identify the important issues or questions to be considered and to determine the appropriate role of the FDA."
Susan Sherry, deputy director of Massachusetts-based Community Catalyst, said that such promotions "can increase the patient's desire to take a drug that may or may not be the most suitable drug."
Jerry Avorn -- a Harvard professor and author of "Powerful Medicines: The Benefits, Risks and Costs of Prescription Drugs" -- said that such promotions can prompt consumers to take brand-name medications when lower-cost generic versions are available. He added, "All that does is get them used to being on the expensive drug."
The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America said that FDA should consider such promotions on a case-by-case basis, rather than impose a ban (Reuters/Boston Globe, 8/14).