It’s dangerous that so many Americans can’t afford prescription drugs

A study published in a special issue of The American Journal of Managed Care has found that the higher a consumer’s out-of-pocket prescription drug expenses, the less likely the consumer is to take needed medications — in particular, cholesterol-lowering medications such as Lipitor and Zocor.

According to the news release from Thomson Medstat:

Researchers analyzed the healthcare use, costs, and behaviors of more than 100,000 people who were prescribed statins, a common treatment for high cholesterol, from 2000 to 2003. They found that higher co-payments for statin medications made it less likely that patients would adhere to prescribed drug regimens – while lower adherence rates were associated with more hospitalizations and emergency room visits. In the two scenarios there was virtually no net effect on total direct medical costs.

Patients who adhered to their drug regimens had higher prescription drug expenditures, but – because they had fewer emergency-oriented episodes- their total healthcare costs were not significantly different from non-adherent patients. A $10 increase in co-payment was associated with an 8.9 percent decrease in the probability of adherence for new users of statin drugs and an 11.9 percent decrease in the probability of adherence for long-term statin users.

It’s predictable, but still sad, that people not taking their medications because of the cost are having more medical emergencies. It’s also significant that total healthcare costs remain the same because of the high cost of emergency care.

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