According to IMS Health, a leading healthcare information and technology company, Americans spent $325.7 billion on prescription medications in 2012. Compare that to the amount they spent in 1990: about $40.3 billion. For sure, medications now represent a significant percentage of many people’s budgets. For some people who need medication, however, the costs of those drugs are simply too onerous to buy.
Dangerous Ways of Reducing Drug Costs
A recent “Consumer Reports” study detailed a phenomenon that probably seems obvious: When people can’t afford medications, they try to find ways to cut those costs. However, much of the time, those cost-cutting practices are dangerous. For example, they might:
- skip necessary doses of medication
- put off going to the doctor
- postpone medical tests
- share their prescriptions with others, or ask others to share their prescriptions with them
- slice their pills in half, and take half a pill at a time
Abandoning Prescriptions at Pharmacies
Another alarming trend pharmacists have been noticing in recent years is that of customers deciding to forego their prescription medicine. That is, when doctors prescribe certain medications to patients, they often neglect to mention how expensive those drugs are. Then, when patients discover the prices at pharmacies, they realize there’s no way that they can pay for them. Thus, these patients simply walk away.
In fact, doctors often write prescriptions without any sense of whether or not their patients can afford them. And 41 percent of the people who responded to the “Consumer Reports” survey said that their doctors routinely prescribed brand-name drugs over their more affordable generic counterparts.
Who Skips Medications the Most Frequently?
According to a recent study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDCP), most of the people who skip their medications are under the age of 65, as people 65 and older can rely on Medicare to ease the costs of unaffordable prescription drugs. Further, and understandably, the cost of prescription drugs is a particularly pressing problem for people with low incomes and people who do not have health insurance. Indeed, about 25 percent of people between the ages of 18 and 64 have not obtained the medicine they need because they cannot afford it. In addition, about 20 percent of people living at or below the poverty line have likewise avoided filling their prescriptions.
When large numbers of people skip unaffordable prescription drugs, what are the effects on society as a whole? The number of seriously sick people rise, and emergency rooms therefore become much more crowded over time. The rates of otherwise-treatable heart disease, in particular, go up substantially. And many of the people in those emergency rooms are uninsured, which means healthcare costs will probably climb for everyone.
Cutting Prescription Costs Safely
However, if you find yourself worried about the price of your medications, be aware there are safe measures you can take. For example:
- Ask your doctor to prescribe a cheaper drug. Indeed, 20 percent of Americans, across the spectrum of ages and incomes, currently request of their doctors cheaper prescriptions, according to the CDCP study.
- Comparison shop. Researchers at “Consumer Reports,” for instance, found the same quantity of Lipitor being sold for $150 at CVS and $17 at Costco.
One of the most effective ways of comparing drug prices — and one of the easiest — is to go online and search for the drug you need. A great website for doing so is eDrugSearch.com. Not only is eDrugSearch.com a free portal for finding the cheapest prescription drug prices on the market, but it ensures that you’ll obtain medication that is completely safe to take.