To Give or Not to Give: The Challenge of Pharmaceutical Coupons


Mihail Zilbermint and Louise Schiavone, The Journal of Clinical Ethics 29, no. 4 (Winter 2018): 319-22.


Diabetes is epidemic and many people cannot afford insulin, a lifesaving medication, as its price has increased by almost 160 percent in the past five years.1 To help subsidize the cost of insulin, one of the staff members at my hospital would like to give patients copayment coupons provided to her by pharmaceutical companies. I advised my colleague to stop distributing these branded coupons, as they promote particular pharmaceutical companies. This practice is not consistent with the policy on interaction with industry established by the Johns Hopkins Health System. Yet at the same time, I want my patients to be able to afford their insulin so they can treat their diabetes. I truly believe in utilitarianism. Would temporarily subsidizing patientsí insulin make me and my staff better healthcare providers? Would this minimize my patientsí financial burden? Would giving away medications coupons help pharmaceutical companies influence me as a prescriber? This challenge created a personal internal debate and profound moral distress.



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