As Word on Health has previously reported, patients not taking or refilling medications on time costs the pharmaceutical industry billions each year. The recent global economic crisis has helped write a whole new chapter in the adherence story. Higher numbers of new prescriptions simply go unfilled because patients either cannot afford, or are unwilling, to pay for them.
According to Dea Belazi, a consulting practice leader for Wolters Kluwer Pharma Solutions, “What’s peculiar is that the rate of increase among patients walking away is almost unprecedented. Over the last two years, pharma has been trying to understand the abandonment situation, particularly in which parts of the country patients tend to abandon more.”
Among commercial health plan patients, the abandonment rate for new prescriptions at the pharmacy reached 6.3% in 2009. The abandonment rate for new prescriptions of brand-name drugs alone was 8.6%, up 23% from 2008 and nearly 70% since 2006.
Rising co-pays are one reason. However, macroeconomic factors such as the housing crisis, subsequent recession and lower household incomes are thought to be the main culprits behind rising price sensitivity and soaring abandonment rates.
Health plan denials compound the problem. Taken together, patient abandonment and payer denials resulted in 14.4% of all new, commercial-plan prescriptions going unfilled in 2009, a 5.5% increase from 2008.
Where can pharma go from here? Abandonment varies geographically. It is highest in Delaware, North Carolina and Florida, whereas denial rates for new prescriptions of brand-name meds are highest in California, Delaware and Florida.