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Seeking Drug Savings, But Risking Safety

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Americans skipped doses, delayed filling prescriptions, and sought lower-cost medications in a battle to minimize the $45 billion out-of-pocket in expenses they incurred buying retail prescription drugs in 2011.

This article published with permission from The Burrill Report.

Americans skipped doses, delayed filling prescriptions, and sought lower-cost medications in a battle to minimize the $45 billion out-of-pocket in expenses they incurred buying retail prescription drugs in 2011, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

While unsurprising, the CDC’s findings provide a useful baseline to track strategies that U.S. adults — segmented by insurance status and poverty level — use to reduce their prescription drug costs on a national level, says the CDC.

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The issue is worth understanding because some of the things people do to save money hurt their health. For example, adults who don’t take prescription medication as prescribed have been shown to have poorer health status, more cardiovascular troubles, and are more likely to end up in emergency rooms and hospitals than people who stick to their prescribed regimen.

In reviewing the data, collected as part of the National Health Interview Survey, the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics found that adults aged 18 to 64 and those aged 65 and over were equally likely to have asked their doctor for a lower-cost medication to save money on prescription drugs (about 20 percent, in each group). Adults aged 18 to 64 were twice as likely to not have taken medication as prescribed to save money (12.6%) compared with adults aged 65 and over (5.8%).

Among adults aged 18 to 64, uninsured adults (23.1%) were more likely than those with Medicaid (13.6%) or those with private coverage (8.7%) to not have taken medication as prescribed to save money. While among adults aged 65 and over, those with only Medicare coverage were more likely to ask their doctor for a lower-cost medication to save money (24.9%) compared with those who had private coverage (20.1%) and those with Medicare and Medicaid (14.7%) coverage.

The number of low-income adults looking for ways to save on prescriptions could grow if a provision in President Obama’s new fiscal 2014 budget survives Congress. That provision would incentivize the use of generics for lower-income patients by raising co-payments on branded drugs and lowering copayments on generics.

Copyright 2013 Burrill & Company. For more life sciences news and information, visit The Burrill Report.


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