Drugs discounted to boost compliance

Drugmakers have come up with all sorts of ways to get folks to take their drugs as directed: mailouts, e-mails, phone calls, even gadget giveaways. But still, people with chronic health problems fail to follow through. Now, a big insurer and several drugmakers are appealing to patients where it really counts: the pocketbook.

UnitedHealth Group is offering $20 discounts off monthly copays for certain asthma meds and antidepressants--provided patients stick to their regimens, the Wall Street Journal reports. The price break only works when members refill their scrips on time. Qualifying antidepressants include Eli Lilly's Cymbalta, and Wyeth's Effexor XR and Pristiq; asthma meds include GlaxoSmithKline's Advair and AstraZeneca's Symbicort. These branded drugs have $50 co-pays on some UnitedHealth plans, so a $20 discount would take the co-pay down to $30.

To make the program work, drugmakers had to play ball, considering the discounts in their rebate deals with UnitedHealth. The idea being, of course, that the price cut would not only encourage patients to keep refilling their scrips, but also to stick with the branded version of the drug rather than switching to a generic. No details on the financial terms, but they must be favorable enough; GlaxoSmithKline, for one, said that it's working other insurers on "this kind of innovative program."

- see the WSJ story

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