Stakeholder survey finds broad approval for copay cards

February 15, 2013

Patients, physicians and pharmacists signal their support of copay cards in Alliance Life Sciences study

A comprehensive study of patients, pharmacists, physicians and payers, including polling of panels, focus groups and one-on-one interviews, paints a picture of the growing importance of copay cards in today’s healthcare system. Patients appreciate the cost savings (which is to be expected); physicians get to help to their patients; and pharmacists see better compliance and refill rates, according to Dilip Phadnis, director of syndicated studies at Alliance Life Sciences (Somerset, NJ). Among patients, 83% of those polled were “extremely” or “very” satisfied with the process—a number high enough to suggest that copay cards counter many of the negative feelings consumers have about the pharma industry.

The one discordant note—no surprise here--is sounded by payers, who find that in some instances, their formulary tiers or step programs are countered by the copay cards. But Phadnis says that manufacturers need to present better evidence that copay cards increase medication adherence, and thereby lower overall healthcare costs over time. Dr. Mohan Purushothaman, EVP at Alliance, notes that "Manufacturers are beginning to look at how copay support programs are beginning to impact their contracting strategies with payers. To a certain degree, discounts that might go the payer for a stronger formulary position are balanced against the copay offsets that go to patients. The tradeoffs on each side of this equation and the practicalities are being debated.”

High physician acceptance

The physician polling included primary care physicians, cardiologists and neurologists, says Phadnis. Roughly three-quarters of all three groups agree that compliance is “significantly” or “somewhat” improved through the use of copay cards; the one standout is that 30% of neurologists saw “significant” improvement in compliance, while around 20% of the others agreed with that assessment.

Of note to copay card distribution programs, the study reveals that currently, physicians are the main source of the cards for patients: they provided 34% of the cards, while online sources were 22%, and pharmacists, 12%. “Some physicians told us that they now keep their copay cards in their sample closet, right next to drug samples,” says Phadnis.

The syndicated study is available for purchase from Alliance Life Sciences.