BOSTON – Attorney General Maura Healey today applauded the signing of a bill, H. 4866, Prevention and Access to Appropriate Care and Treatment of Addiction, into law that expands tools, treatment, and education to combat the opioid crisis in Massachusetts, and includes a provision proposed by the AG’s Office that prohibits opioid manufacturers from using coupons to market brand-name opioids to Massachusetts patients.
For years, coupons have been used as a marketing tool by drug manufacturers to increase the number of new patients using their drugs and to incentivize use for longer periods of time. The coupons typically lower or eliminate insurance co-payments for prescription medications and drive patients toward specific branded drugs.
“The use of coupons as a marketing tool for opioids is inappropriate and deadly,” said AG Healey. “I am grateful to the Legislature for passing a comprehensive opioid bill that includes this key provision and thank the Governor for signing it into law.”
This amendment will prevent manufacturers of brand-name, Schedule II opioids like OxyContin, Hysingla, Zohydro, and Xtampza, from using copay coupons to promote their drugs and boost sales.
In June 2018, AG Healey announced that her office was suing Purdue Pharma L.P. and Purdue Pharma Inc. (Purdue) and its owners for misleading prescribers and consumers about the addiction and health risks of their opioids, including OxyContin, to get more people to take these drugs and increase the companies’ profits. The AG’s lawsuit specifically alleges that Purdue aggressively marketed its opioids and targeted its promotional efforts at vulnerable populations to increase profits.
The investigation has shown that Purdue considers its copay savings programs a critical component of its strategy to boost sales and is among the company’s most profitable marketing tools for OxyContin, generating $4.28 for every $1 the company gave away in coupons. Purdue’s sales materials show that with copay coupons, more new patients remain on OxyContin after 90 days when a savings card is redeemed. According to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, patients who stay on prescription opioids for more than 90 days are 30 times more likely to die of an overdose.
AG Healey announced her investigation into opioid manufacturers in June 2017, along with a national bipartisan coalition of attorneys general, to determine whether the companies sought to increase profits by misrepresenting the dangers of prescription painkillers and ignoring the public health risks of spiking opioid sales. In September 2017, the coalition expanded that investigation to include additional opioid manufacturers and distributors.
AG Healey’s investigations into other opioid manufacturers and distributors, including Endo, Janssen, Teva, Allergan, AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health, and McKesson, remain ongoing.