Curious Why Prescriptions Cost More In Mass.CBS

Prescription drugs can cost thousands of dollars year, even for people who have health insurance. Many drug companies offer rebates and coupons to help defray the cost.

Mary from North Brookfield wrote to our Curiosity web page, asking why Massachusetts won’t allow drug manufacturers to give financial assistance to those that use their drug.

Mary has a number of medical issues, including high blood pressure, thyroid problems, and diabetes. She’s thankful she has a drug benefit on her health insurance to help cover the costs of the many prescriptions she has to take. Still, the co-pays for her family are staggering. “We have a grand total of close to $3,000 a year for medication,” she explained.

And taking these drugs is not an option for Mary. “I have to have it, yes. I have to have it, or else life is going to be miserable,” she said.


Mary looked for ways to save money and was excited to find coupons and rebates online and in magazines. Then she read the fine print and found out they can’t be used by patients who live in Massachusetts.

Massachusetts is the only state which doesn’t allow its residents to use coupons or rebates on prescription drugs.

Alan Sager, PH.D, of the Boston University School of Public Health believes this policy actually saves consumers money in the long run. “The drug makers set up these financial arrangements for their benefit, no ours.” he said.

Sager says the drug companies have a specific agenda. Their goal is to get patients to pressure doctors for brand name drugs, instead of cheaper generics.

“If we are enticed to a drug by a rebate or a discount, we are then on that drug and we are paying more and more each money each month, and our insurance is paying more each month,” he believes. “The premiums go up and we think that the employer is paying the premiums, but really most of that premium comes out of our paycheck.”


Representative Peter Koutoujian, a democrat from Waltham, disagrees. He is sponsoring a bill which would allow Massachusetts consumers to participate in these promotional deals. He says state law already requires doctors to prescribe generics if they exist, and that this bill could actually save money.

“If people aren’t taking their drugs because they can’t afford to take it each month, they have many more problems,” he said. “They have to see their physician. They have to visit the emergency room. They have to stay in the hospital, so costs of these patients skyrockets out of control.”

And speaking of control, Mary would like to have a little more of that when it comes to making her own health care choices. “I’m a big girl, “she said. “There are a lot of people out there who can take care of themselves.”

Although coupons and rebates are not allowed in Massachusetts, free samples are considered OK.

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