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There is a federal law that prohibits drug companies from directly covering out-of-pocket spending by Medicare beneficiaries. But these companies are allowed to donate to independent charities that provide assistance to patients — and they can earmark donations for a condition treated by their drugs.

With this in mind, a group of researchers wanted to know whether the donations are a good investment for the pharmaceutical industry — and they found that, yes, the donations can be profitable. This was the case even when there were relatively few patients who used a drug made by the companies, according to their analysis, published in Health Affairs.

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