The Office of Inspector General (OIG) of the Department of Health & Human Services issued a Special Advisory Bulletin (SAB) on September 19, 2014 discussing the coupon programs employed by many pharmaceutical manufacturers to reduce or entirely eliminate patient copayments to obtain brand-name drugs. As mentioned on our Health Industry Washington Watch blog, the SAB cautions that there are several risks associated with manufacturers utilizing such coupon programs, and that the manufacturers must make efforts to prevent federal health care program beneficiaries from using the coupons if they wish to avoid these risks. Among the potential issues that can arise from an improperly-regulated coupon program are violations of the Anti-Kickback Statute (when programs – which qualify as remuneration – are purposely paid with the intent to encourage the use of items or services payable by a federal health care program) and False Claims Act (when a claim includes items or services resulting from a kickback violation). While the SAB’s focus is on manufacturer coupon practices, in a footnote, the OIG states that pharmacies accepting coupons for Part D copayments may also be subject to these sanctions.
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