In recent years, copayment coupon programs have become standard promotional practices for both large and small pharmaceutical manufacturers.  Copayment coupons are typically offered to commercially insured patients in order to reduce or eliminate out-of-pocket costs for specific brand name drugs with higher copays.  Since their inception, prescription drug copayment coupon programs have been a source of controversy – favored by brand manufacturers, physicians, and patients, and opposed by generic manufacturers, health insurers, third party payers, and pharmaceutical benefit managers (PBMs).

Last month, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Inspector General (OIG) followed through on its promise in the 2013 and 2014 Work Plans and released a Special Advisory Bulletin directly addressing pharmaceutical manufacturer copayment coupons. The bulletin and its companion report, “Manufacturer Safeguards May Not Prevent Copayment Coupon Use for Part D Drugs” advise that coupon offerors will risk sanctions if they do not take appropriate steps to ensure that their coupons are not inducing the purchase of items or services paid for by Federal health care programs.  This includes, among other things, prescription drugs paid for by Medicare Part D.  Even though this bulletin is directed toward pharmaceutical manufacturers, it is important to note that it applies to any entity offering a copayment coupon, as well as pharmacies that accept such manufacturer coupons.