With drug prices rising and many people out of work, pharmaceutical companies are increasingly helping patients with their co-payments. The use of such co-payment cards and coupons and other types of discounts has more than tripled since mid-2006, according to IMS Health, an information company that tracks the pharmaceutical industry. Drug companies say the plans help some patients afford medicines that they otherwise could not. But health insurers and some consumer groups say that in many cases, the coupons are just marketing gimmicks that are leading to an overall increase in healthcare costs. That is because they circumvent the system of higher co-pays on costlier drugs that insurers use to encourage consumers to use less expensive products.