ARTICLE: Characteristics of Copayment Offsets for Prescription Drugs in the United States

AUTHORS: Aditi P Sen, So-Yeon Kang, Emaan Rashidi, Devoja Ganguli, Gerard Anderson, G Caleb Alexander

JOURNAL: JAMA Intern Med. 2021 Jun 1;181(6):758-764. doi: 10.1001/jamainternmed.2021.0733.


Importance: Despite ongoing debate regarding the high prices that patients pay for prescription drugs, to our knowledge, little is known regarding the use of coupons, vouchers, and other types of copayment "offsets" that reduce patients' out-of-pocket drug spending. Although offsets reduce patients' immediate cost burden, they may encourage the use of higher-cost products and diminish health insurers' ability to optimize pharmaceutical value.

Objective: To examine the drugs most commonly covered by offsets, the percentage of out-of-pocket costs covered by offsets, and the characteristics of patients using offsets for retail pharmacy transactions in the United States in 2017 through 2019.

Design, setting, and participants: A retrospective cohort analysis was conducted of a 5% nationally random sample of anonymized pharmacy claims from IQVIA's Formulary Impact Analyzer, which captures more than 60% of all US pharmacy transactions. This analysis focused on 631 249 individuals who used at least 1 offset between October 1, 2017, and September 30, 2019.

Main outcomes and measures: Offset source, types of drugs covered by offsets, offset dollar value and percentage of out-of-pocket payment covered, and county characteristics of offset recipients.

Results: The 631 249 individuals in the study (361 855 female participants [57.3%]; mean [SD] age, 45.7 [18.6] years) had approximately 33 million prescription fills, of which 12.8% had an offset used. Of these, 50.2% originated from a pharmaceutical manufacturer, 47.2% originated from a pharmacy or pharmacy benefit manager (PBM), and 2.6% originated from a state assistance program. A total of 80.0% of manufacturer-sponsored offsets were concentrated among 6.2% of unique products, and 79.9% of pharmacy-PBM offsets were concentrated among 4.9% of unique products. Most manufacturer offsets (88.2%) were for branded products, while most pharmacy-PBM offsets were for generic products (90.5%). The median manufacturer offset was $51.00, covering 87.1% of out-of-pocket costs; the median pharmacy-PBM offset was $16.30, covering 39.3% of out-of-pocket costs. There was no meaningful association between offset magnitude and county-level income, health insurance coverage, or race/ethnicity.

Conclusions and relevance: In this analysis of patient-level pharmacy claims from 2017 to 2019, approximately half of all offsets involved pharmacy-PBM contractual arrangements, and half were offered by manufacturers. All offsets were associated with a significant reduction in patients' out-of-pocket costs, were highly concentrated among a few drugs, and were generally not more generous among individuals in counties with lower income or larger Black or uninsured populations.

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For a link to the abstract, click here.

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