Low-Income, Minority Seniors Restrict Use of Prescription Drugs Because of Costs
Forty-three percent of seniors who lack prescription drug coverage and who are either minorities, have annual incomes of less than $10,000 or have high out-of-pocket prescription drug costs greater than $100 a month say they restrict their use of prescribed medications because of cost, according to a study published in the December issue of the Journal of General Internal Medicine. The study, conducted by researchers from the University of California-San Francisco Department of Medicine, surveyed about 5,000 Americans ages 70 and older -- with and without prescription drug coverage -- who "regularly used" prescription drugs. The study found that low-income participants without prescription drug coverage were 15 times more likely to restrict their drug use than low-income respondents with drug coverage. The study also found that overall, 20.9% of minority respondents, 15.6% of people with annual incomes under $10,000 and 13.4% of participants with out-of-pocket costs exceeding $100 per month limited their use of medications because of cost concerns.
According to a release from the public advocacy group Public Citizen, "Even one of [these] three risk factors ... made it significantly more likely" that individuals without prescription drug coverage would have to restrict their use of treatments as a result of cost. The authors of the study, led by Dr. Michael Steinman of UCSF, said that restricting prescription drug use "may have serious consequences for patients' health, resulting in increased emergency department visits, nursing home admissions, (and) use of emergency mental health services." Based on the findings, Public Citizen stated that many seniors "go without the medicines they need to maintain their health." The findings in the UCSF study are consistent with the results of a Nov. 20 Harris Poll, which found that 39% of adults with annual incomes of less than $15,000 had not filled a prescription in the past 12 months as a result of cost (Public Citizen release, 12/4).