When two pharmacy benefits managers (PBMs)—Express Scripts and CVS Health—recently launched direct-to-consumer, drug discount cards, the pharmacy industry might have wondered if these pharmacy middlemen were trying out a new role.
Discount cards are certainly not an anomaly in pharmacy, but they are less common when sponsored by PBMs and marketed directly to consumers. Pharmacies, such as Walmart, and many drug manufacturers have offered discount drug cards and coupons for years.
Blink Health, for example, offers one year of free prescriptions for metformin, glipizide, and pioglitazone to anyone creating an account on its website. It also has partnered with Eli Lily, offering a 40% discount on the manufacturer’s insulin, including Humalog, an insulin patient access program.
In 2013, Medipact acquired ScriptSave, a PBM offering consumer-focused pharmacy loyalty programs. Consumers can expect an average savings of 45% and up to 80% on brand and generic prescription drugs regardless of insurance status. More than 62,000 pharmacies across the country accept the card, with no limits on its use.
The two new drug discount cards that partner with pharmacies and manufacturers align with the high rate of patients who don’t take their medications due to their high costs. More than 125,000 deaths and up to $300 billion are attributed annually to nonadherence to medication, according to a study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine. In addition, many brands are unaffordable for the 30 million who pay cash for medications.