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CDC Statistics Show Many Americans Skip Meds to Save Money

$45 billion spent on prescription drugs in 2011 (Apr. 9)

An online report issued by the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), a part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), has described the different strategies used by U.S. adults to reduce their prescription drug costs, based on data from the 2011 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS).

According to the new report, some adults reduce drug costs by skipping doses and by delaying filling prescriptions. However, some of the cost-reduction strategies used by adults have been associated with negative health outcomes. For example, adults who do not take prescription medications as prescribed have been shown to have a poorer health status and increased emergency room use, hospitalizations, and cardiovascular events.

The report’s key findings include:

  • Adults aged 18 to 64 years and those aged 65 years and older were equally likely to have asked their doctors for a lower-cost medication to save money on prescription drugs (19.8% and 20.3%, respectively).
  • Adults aged 18 to 64 years were twice as likely not to have taken medications as prescribed to save money (12.6%) compared with adults aged 65 years and older (5.8%).
  • Among adults aged 18 to 64 years, uninsured individuals (23.1%) were more likely than those with Medicaid (13.6%) or those with private coverage (8.7%) not to have taken medications as prescribed to save money.
  • Among adults aged 65 years and older, those with only Medicare coverage were more likely to ask their doctors for a lower-cost medication to save money (24.9%) compared with those with private coverage (20.1%) and those with combined Medicare and Medicaid (14.7%) coverage.
  • About 2% of adults purchased prescription drugs outside the U.S. to save money.

In general, the investigators found that adults who were poor, near poor, or uninsured were more likely not to take medications as prescribed to reduce their prescription drug costs. The researchers also found that although health insurance may, in some cases, result in access to drugs, this might not always be the case, even for those over age 65 who may have multiple forms of coverage (such as Medicare and private insurance, or who may be “dual eligible” for Medicare and Medicaid).

According to the CDC, Americans spent $45 billion out-of-pocket on retail prescription drugs in 2011.

Source: NCHS; April 9, 2013.

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