Today, I was intrigued by a Washington Post article about branded drug companies offering discount coupons to stave off competition from generic drug manufacturers. It’s not that I have an objection to competition, or to keeping the price of prescription drugs at an affordable level. Actually, what piqued my interest were the quotes from the federal government concerning the coupon program, in particular, in reaction to complaints that the coupons may violate the federal anti-kickback law.
That law is designed to prevent the use of “remuneration” to induce a referral that gets reimbursed by a federal health care program. For example, if coupons are used to purchase a drug whose cost gets reimbursed by a federal health care program, that practice falls into the grey area surrounding the anti-kickback law. The federal government, however, seems to believe that the coupon practice is fine, per the Post article:
“According to Donald White, a spokesman for the Department of Health and Human Services, no court or administrative body has ever ruled that coupons are illegal. HHS has never prosecuted anyone for issuing or using coupons in the federal health programs.” Query whether all of the States would agree, i.e., whether we will soon see a court fully review this issue.