Are Discount Coupons a Healthy Option for the Pharma Sector?

By November 29, 2012

US-based startup MyCouponDoc offers people the chance to obtain the medicines they need at a cheaper price by printing out discount coupons that they can redeem at the local pharmacy. Drug manufacturers who adopt this approach see it as a means to promote their products and create loyalty among patients who use them.

The cost of medicines in the United States has more than doubled over the last ten years and the average cost of medical insurance has also risen by 20%. This has prompted MyCoupondoc, a startup incubated at HealthBox, an incubator specializing in the healthcare sector, to come up with a system of discount coupons for medicines. So is it really feasible to offer promotions on medicines in the same way they do in general retail?  MyCoupondoc’s answer is a resounding ‘Yes’ – provided the initiative is properly managed, of course. The solution is based on a website where patients can obtain coupons for products that are available with or without a prescription. The process is simple. You go to the site and type into the search engine either the brand name of a drug or specify an illness.  The site then displays various coupons that correspond to your enquiry and you can also look at all the coupons available in the site database, which contains over 400 coupons indexed to the most popular prescription or over-the-counter medication.

Print and redeem

So you choose a coupon, fill in the form, then print out the coupon and take it round to the local pharmacy where the amount will be deducted from the purchase price of the medicament or your prescription payment. You cannot actually make your purchase online, as the pharmacist will have to verify whether the product is in fact suitable for your condition. The site’s founders believe that by using the coupons patients will be able to save substantial amounts each year – several hundreds of dollars on average. “This initiative is similar to sites such as Groupon, which offers price reductions on health treatments,” Denise Silber, founder of online healthcare strategy consultancy Basil Strategies, explained to L’Atelier. But why exactly would pharma firms want to offer discounts on their branded drugs and advertise them as if they were mass consumer items?  One advantage for the manufacturer in using discount coupons is that “it enables them to offer ad hoc promotions,” points out Denise Silber.

A way to create patient loyalty?

In the US, the pharmaceutical industry already spends close to $40 billion annually on marketing and promotion. But discount coupons might be a good way to create loyalty among patients. However, MyCouponDoc does not only distribute coupons, it is also working to bring the two sides of the healthcare industry – i.e. pharmaceuticals manufacturers on the one hand and medical practitioners on the other – closer together. The platform integrates for the benefit of doctors and their patients the information provided in the pharma firms’ existing applications and is also starting to integrate the discounts on offer into the Electronic Health Records kept by doctors. Another innovation the startup has come up with is a partnership with Merge Healthcare, a provider of healthcare enterprise imaging solutions, which means that patients can print out their coupons on the spot at the pharmacy.


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