Prescription Drug Costs Force Many Chronically Ill People To Limit Use, Study Finds
About two-thirds of chronically ill patients who limit their use of prescription drugs because of the cost do not first inform their physicians, according to a study published on Monday in the Archives of Internal Medicine, the Evansville Courier & Press reports. In the study, researchers from the VA Ann Arbor Healthcare System, the University of Michigan Medical School and Stanford University surveyed 660 patients ages 50 and older with at least one serious medical problem.
According to the study, funded by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality and the Department of Veterans Affairs, more than one-third of respondents did not inform their physicians that they did not take the medications prescribed to them for serious medical problems, such as high cholesterol, diabetes, high blood pressure or osteoporosis. Among respondents who limited their use of prescription drugs because of the cost, two-thirds said that their physicians never asked them about their ability to pay for the medications, the study found. More than 90% of respondents who discussed the cost issue with their physicians said that they received medication samples at no cost, 69% received a prescription for a less-expensive generic medication and 59% received information about which medications were most important. However, only 30% of those respondents received information about programs that help cover prescription drug costs, only 28% received information on where to purchase less-expensive medications and only 10% were referred to a social worker or other professional to discuss government and private assistance programs, according to the study.
Researchers said that the study "underscores how important it is for doctors and nurses to take the initiative in asking patients if they are having trouble paying for drugs and helping them seek solutions," the Courier & Press reports. John Piette, lead author of the study, said, "These chronically ill adults are the patients who most need their medications. Yet their doctors don't know that they aren't taking them because of cost pressures. As drug costs and the number of chronically ill Americans both continue to rise, it's essential that health care providers proactively discuss costs and adherence with their patients," adding, "The bottom line for patients is, speak up or you might miss a great chance to get help. And the bottom line for doctors and nurses is, don't be shy about asking your patients if they can afford the drugs you're prescribing" (Bowman, Evansville Courier & Press, 9/15). An abstract of the study is available online.This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.