As economic uncertainty and rising healthcare costs continue to buffet the bank accounts of millions of Americans, many are cutting back on prescription drugs to save money, according to a report by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The study found that adults under the age of 65 were twice as likely as the elderly to skip prescription medication to save money. And, not surprisingly, the uninsured and the poor were most likely to forgo medicine entirely.
But researchers say there’s a price to pay for being so frugal.
“Adults who do not take prescription medication as prescribed have been shown to have poorer health status and increased emergency room use, hospitalizations, and cardiovascular events,” said the team led by Robin Cohen of the CDC’s Division of Health Interview Statistics.
In 2011, Americans spent $45 billion out of pocket on prescription drugs, but they continued to search for ways to lower those costs. About 20 percent of adults asked their doctor to prescribe a less expensive medication so they could save money, the report found.
Uninsured Americans were more likely to try to save money on their prescription drugs. CDC researchers found that about 23 percent of uninsured people between 18 and 64 years of age skipped taking their medicine to reduce costs. That compares to about 14 percent of those with Medicaid and around 9 percent with private insurance.
The report also found that 6 percent of adults between the ages of 18 and 64 opted for less expensive alternative therapies, compared with 2.3 percent of adults aged 65 and older. About one in every 50 Americans purchased their prescription drugs outside the country to save money.
“If you’re not insured or you face high co-payments, you’re going to stretch your prescriptions,” Steve Morgan, an associate professor at the University of British Columbia’s School of Population and Public Health in Vancouver told Medical Daily.
“Even among insured populations, there is this invincibility mindset among the very young. Older people are more likely to adhere to chronic therapies over a longer period of time than younger.”
A recent study by one of the nation’s largest drug screening companies found that 42% of patients tested had no drugs in the urine samples, including medications ordered by their physicians. That compares to 40% of the patients tested in 2011. The report speculates that financial constraints may have limited the patients’ ability to buy medications.