As the popularity of brand discount cards grows among Canadians, how much are people actually saving? And what’s the cost to insurers?

In a study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, researchers waded through 2.82 million prescriptions for 89 different medications for which patients used brand discount cards. It found patients saved seven per cent, or $3.49 per prescription, for using the cards. Notably, the study said the savings varied significantly between medications.

Brand discount cards are growing throughout Canada. Patients can get them from several sources, including a physician’s office, and they are adjudicated at the pharmacy like an insurance plan to reduce how much an individual pays for the a branded product prescription.

Read: 2019 Drug Plan Trends Report: What’s next for drug plans?

The study found private insurance expenditures were 46 per cent higher when patients used brand discount cards than if they’d received comparable generic prescriptions. Public insurers were only slightly higher, at an increase of 1.3 per cent per prescription if patients used the discount cards. These elevated costs were consistent across the board, regardless of the medication, the study noted.

“This increase in cost for the insurer occurs because the difference in cost between the branded product and the generic is covered only for the patient and not for the insurance plan,” it said. “In particular, this increased cost is more likely when the claim is sent to the insurance plan for adjudication before the card is applied, making it seem to the insurer that the patient is filling a standard brand prescription.”


Read: Canada second-highest spender on generic drugs among OECD countries: report


Copyright © 2020 Transcontinental Media G.P. Originally published on

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Dave Patriarche:

I have several problems with this article, but will hit the biggest one. It begins with the statment… “This increase in cost for the insurer occurs because…”

NO. NO. NO. It is the cost to the EMPLOYERS that pay for the majority of private plans that may be higher. Continuing to state that insurers pay for the cost of employee benefit plans is just wrong and tends to be one more thing that fuels the fraud in healthcare. Many would be less inclined to steal if they new it was coming straight out of their employers pocket. To be clear, the only costs that insurers incur, are for the insurance company’s employees themselves.

When the article begins like that, we tend to disregard it as the lack of awareness to who actually pays the claims, means they have a total disconnect…so why read further.

Tuesday, November 19 at 11:42 am | Reply

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