The Power of Drug Coupons

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We went to the pharmacy to get some effective head lice treatment for our child. We had asked our doctor for a prescription for Natroba which is fairly inexpensive, but our doctor talked us up to Sklice because “[her] patients have had great success with it,” and “there’s a drug coupon” to bring down the high cost.

I printed out the coupon, which was quite a bit of drama for what I thought might be a few bucks off. The coupon said “May Pay No More than $30 on Sklice Lotion.”

When I went to pick it up, the pharmacist told us it was $149.70. I said, “oh, you need to use the coupon.” The pharmacist he did use the coupon. The retail price was $753.44.

Our insurance paid $407.99, McKesson’s coupon maxed out at $195.75, and the remaining out-of-pocket was $149.70.

See what McKesson is doing here? They give the drug a ridiculously high price and hand out coupons so the insurance company winds up paying more than half the cost. After eating the cost of the coupon, they get $557.69 out of this, which is way more than they would get if they weren’t swindling the insurance companies. 

I called our doctor back and she said, “That’s outrageous. The rep said people shouldn’t have to pay more than $30!”

See what McKesson did there? They sent a rep to my doctor and told her how great this medication was, possibly gave her stuff, and that’s how I wound up with Sklice instead of Natroba.

How are discount drug coupons shameful?

Just to get it out there, Sklice isn’t *that* much more effective than Natroba. It’s 94% vs. 86% in trials, with a small sample size and a lot of asterisks. (Compare to 40% for non-prescription products like Rid and Nix.)

First, what they did with my doctor means that I can’t trust her with any prescriptions again. That’s sad. 

Second, for the general public, it’s terrible. McKesson made almost $600 from a tube of this stuff, which I “invisibly” paid for through my expensive insurance. The system is rigged to hide the true costs of the product, which makes insurance more expensive for everybody.

Who else is doing it?

McKesson is not alone. Pfizer is famous for using this tactic to bypass the generics.

It’s a practice so slimy that it’s now illegal in New Jersey and California.

I wonder what will happen to the price without coupons?


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