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Women, Uninsured More Likely to Use Strategies to Reduce Prescription Drug Costs

Laura Joszt
The percentage of US adults who used strategies to reduce prescription drug costs, such as skipping medication doses, asking the doctor for a lower-cost medication, and using alternative therapies, was stable from 2015 to 2017 and was down from 2013 to 2015.
From 2015 to 2017, the percentage of US adults between the ages of 18 and 64 years who used strategies to reduce their prescription drug costs was stable, and it was down from 2013 through 2015, according to a National Center for Health Statistics Data Brief.

Nearly 60% of adults were prescribed a medication in the previous 12 months, with the majority of these prescriptions (70%) carrying out-of-pocket costs. The authors noted that total retail prescription drug spending accounted for 10% of total national health expenditures and that the growth in prescription drug spending has slowed in recent years, which may account for the decreased percentage of adults using strategies to reduce costs.

“Cost-saving strategies to reduce prescription drug costs may have implications for health status and have been associated with increased emergency room use and hospitalizations compared with adults who follow recommended pharmacotherapy,” the authors warned.

Strategies for reducing prescription drug costs that the survey evaluated included skipping medication doses, taking less medicine, delaying filling a prescription, asking the doctor for a lower-cost medication, and using alternative therapies. From 2015 to 2017, 19.5% of adults asked for a lower-cost medication, down from 25.8% in 2013. Only 11.4% did not take their medication as prescribed, down from 14.9% in 2013, and 5.4% used alternative therapies, down from 5.8% in 2013.

Women and the uninsured were more likely than men or those with private insurance or Medicaid to use strategies to reduce drug costs. According to the survey results, 22.0% of women asked for a lower-cost medication compared with 16.4% of men; 12.7% of women did not take their medication as prescribed compared with 9.7% of men; and 6.6% of women used alternative therapies compared with just 3.9% of men.

Uninsured adults were more than twice as likely to ask for a lower-cost medication than those with private insurance or Medicaid (39.5% vs 18.0% and 15.7%). In addition, 33.6% of uninsured adults did not take their medications as prescribed compared with 8.4% of those with private insurance and 12.5% of those with Medicaid. Finally, 13.9% of uninsured adults used alternative therapies compared with just 4.4% of those with private insurance and 6.4% of those with Medicaid.

The authors did note that while health insurance coverage was measured at the time of the interview, questions about strategies to reduce prescription drug costs were based on the 12 months prior to the interview.

“Therefore, the adults’ health insurance status may have been different at the time they used a strategy to reduce their prescription drug costs,” the authors wrote.

Reference

Cohen RA, Boersma P, Vahratian A. Strategies used by adults aged 18-64 to reduce their prescription drug costs, 2017. NCHS Data Brief. 2019;(333):1-8.

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