Coupons, Vouchers, and Adjudicated-Debit Cards: How Is A Brand Manager To Decide?

March 3, 2008
Michael Edmondson
Successful Product Manager's Handbook

Each tactic has its advantage, but one is tech savvy and just might make filling scrips a lot more desirable for customers

According to various estimates, between 20 and 30 percent of prescriptions are never filled. There are numerous reasons for the shortfall, and cost certainly ranks high among them.

7 things to look for in an adjudicated-debit card

One of the ways to address this concern for pharma companies is to utilize patient-savings branded-drug programs and copay assistance incentives to help patients defray their costs.

Pharma companies have experimented with a variety of different platforms and formats through which to deliver the programs. Generally, they fall into two main categories: coupons/vouchers/patient savings cards and adjudicated-live debit cards.

All can accomplish the main goal: Making it easier for a patient to say yes to a prescription.

But there are significant differences between the two approaches—especially in terms of how they provide incentives to pharmacists.

Product managers need to understand the logic of these programs to make the best choice.

Paper coupons/vouchers

Coupons and vouchers come in a paper format; they are distributed via news-papers and magazines, or they can be printed from the Web. They can be used (depending on the conditions) to cover all or part of a patient's out-of-pocket expenses, including copays. To redeem a coupon, a patient must bring it along with a prescription to the pharmacist. The pharmacist submits a claim and deducts the discount. If the pharmacy does not accept the coupon, the patient has the option of mailing a form (often attached to the coupon) into the manufacturer for the discount.

Patient savings-program cards

These are virtually the same as the paper coupons and vouchers except they come in a card format on a heavier-stock paper. And like most paper coupons/vouchers, the card stipulates that should the pharmacist accept it, he or she will receive a reimbursement sometime in the future (10 to 20 business days).

Front of adjudicated-debit card, which includes a bank number

From the pharmacist's point of view, there are two obvious problems with this:

  • The coupons/vouchers/cards do not serve as a financial transaction.

  • He or she receives no immediate payment.

Making the pharmacist wait for the money could be a turnoff and may prompt the pharmacist not to accept the incentives at all. This, in turn, could leave a sour taste in the mouth of the patient, who then must find another pharmacist to honor the discount. Or the patient might decide not to fill the scrip altogether.

This is also counter to the intention of the brand team, which sought to provide a positive, money-saving experience for the patient, and perhaps to create a long-standing relationship with the product.

The adjudicated-debit card

Enter the adjudicated-debit card:

It looks like an ATM card; it walks like one, too. Backed by banks, the adjudicated-debit card serves as a financial transaction, which means the pharmacist is paid right away.

Usually distributed by a sales rep to a doctor, the adjudicated-debit card is then passed along to the patient with the prescription.

The patient then presents it to the pharmacist, who swipes the card at the point-of-sale terminal and types in the identification number on the back of the card. Loaded with the patient benefit preset by the brand team, the card both facilitates and encourages copay purchases.

Additionally, the adjudicated-debit card can be used only for the NDC (national drug code) associated with the business rules designated by the brand team.

In terms of security, the card is inactive until all parameters are met. Money cannot be put onto the card or taken off the card unless the adjudication process is completed correctly for the program.

If all goes as planned with the adjudicated-debit card, the pharmacist gets his or her money in real time, and the patient gets the discount on the drug. And, like any successful DTC marketing initiative, awareness of the brand has been increased.

Michael Edmondson is senior director, sales and marketing at PSKW. He can be reached at