We all know generic versions of prescription drugs can cost a fraction of the brand name drug’s price.
As a result, drug companies with expiring brand name patents are losing billions to their generic competitors.
So to lure consumers back, they’re now offering coupons to reduce co-payments on popular medicines.
For example, Pfizer Inc. is now offering a coupon for the cholesterol-lowering drug Lipitor for as little as $4 a month.
If the price is lower than the generic version, those companies are hoping consumers will choose the familiar name they know.
“Because when you put a name to a product, a brand name to a product, it becomes a part of your family. It becomes something you can trust,” Dr. Alex Smith said, a marketing professor at Oklahoma City University.
He said while consumers can save money with these coupons, expectations will follow.
“Whenever you start lowering prices, consumers start expecting it and then in the long-term, then you have to provide it or they get upset,” Dr. Smith said.
“The doctor told them this (coupon) will pay for your drug forever,” Dani Lynch said, owner of Thrifty Pharmacy. “Well as we well know, as you can see by the small writing (on the coupon), that’s not going to happen and so they’re mad at us.”
Lynch said the small print on many of these brand name drug coupons shows their offer is limited.
She said some coupons are difficult for pharmacies to process and others require you to call an activation number, which can take hours.
There are other fine-print exceptions to keep in mind.
“This one says, ‘Pay no more than $25,’ but if you look on here, it says this is not available for individuals enrolled in Medicare or Medicaid,” she said while looking at a coupon.
Experts say to only use a coupon from a trusted source, like your doctor or the manufacturer’s website.
Also, ask your doctor if there are generic drugs that may still be cheaper, and more effective, than the brand name.