Cutting Costs by Cutting Pills

Medical CostsAccording to some disturbing data released yesterday by the CDC, many US adults aren’t following doctor’s orders. And it’s not just the very young or very old, who, it could be claimed,  don’t know any better.

It turns out that adults under the retirement age are twice as likely to skip their prescribed medications in order to save money to save money.

And although spending on drugs is expected to increase an average of 6.6% a year from 2015 through 202, 20% of adults regardless of age, have asked their doctors for a lower cost treatment.

Americans spent $45 billion out-of-pocket on retail prescription drugs in 2011. But, “if you’re not insured or you face high co-payments, you’re going to stretch your prescriptions,” says Steve Morgan, an associate professor at the University of British Columbia’s School of Population and Public Health in Vancouver. “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.”

The study also found that 13% of those ages 18 – 64 reported not taking their medications as prescribed to reduce costs compared with 5.8% of those 65 and older.

cut pillStrategies that alter the way adults take their medications include skipping doses and consuming less than the prescribed amount. About 11% of those aged 18 – 64 also delayed filling a prescription compared with 4.4% of those 65 and older.

Uninsured adults were more likely to have tried to stretch their medications than those with Medicaid or private insurance.

But are such savings worth it? Failing to take medication as prescribed may actually increase costs to the U.S. health system, particularly if medication non-adherence results in increased hospitalizations, or complications of chronic diseases.

Anytime a patient chooses not to take drugs as prescribed, the pharmaceutical industry pharma loses sales. A recent study estimated that pharma loses $564 billion globally to non-adherence to drugs. Not surprisingly then, the industry is experimenting with reminders, to increase adherence. Nevertheless, a nudge from a text or a talking pill container might not inspire patients who are penny pinching.

I’d love to stay and chat, but I need to run to the pharmacy to refill my blood pressure meds that I ran out of several days ago!

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