Many U.S. consumers rely on multiple prescription drugs and are so strapped for cash that they can't afford to pay for them, leading them to skip their medications, according to the annual prescription drug poll of Consumer Reports.


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Survey: Many struggle to pay for prescriptions

September 13th, 2012

YONKERS, N.Y. – Many U.S. consumers rely on multiple prescription drugs and are so strapped for cash that they can't afford to pay for them, leading them to skip their medications, according to the annual prescription drug poll of Consumer Reports.

The consumer advocacy organization said Thursday that a lot of financially pressed Americans also are forgoing routine doctors' appointments and declining medical tests and procedures.

For the telephone survey, the Consumer Reports National Research Center interviewed 1,158 adults who currently take a prescription drug. The poll revealed that 46% of U.S. adults now take prescription drugs, and for those people the average number of prescriptions taken is 4.1.

And reliance on multiple prescriptions is no longer confined to older Americans: 25% of those age 18 to 39 regularly take two prescription medications.

Since last year, people under age 65 without a prescription drug benefit have been especially hard hit, with 45% not filling their prescriptions because of cost, compared with 27% in the previous year, the poll found. Also among those younger than 65, 62% declined a medical test because of cost (up 29 percentage points from 2011), 63% put off a doctor visit to save money (up 16 percentage points) and 51% skipped a medical procedure due to cost (up 12 percentage points).

To pay for much-needed prescriptions, consumers have been cutting back on everything from entertainment to groceries, according to Consumer Reports. Twenty-one percent of adults under 65 with prescription drug coverage and 46% of those without coverage spent less on groceries. Also, 14% of adults under 65 with a drug benefit said they used their credit cards more, and 22% of those without coverage did so. And 28% of adults under 65 with a prescription drug benefit and 58% of those without spent less on entertainment and dining.

"When it comes to prescription drugs, consumers are spending on average $63 out of pocket every month, which can easily swallow up a big portion of the family budget. It's even worse for those without insurance for medicines, who pay upwards of $91 a month for their prescriptions," Lisa Gill, editor for prescription drugs at Consumer Reports, said in a statement.

"We recommend several cost-cutting strategies, such as the $4-a-month generic programs at the big-box and chain pharmacies, and if you aren't already taking a generic, talk to your doctor about switching," Gill added.

Other strategies recommended by Consumer Reports for reducing medication costs include using generic drugs instead of brand-name drugs, pill-splitting when appropriate, and when possible substituting over-the-counter medicines for prescription drugs.  

The Consumer Reports poll, too, found that consumers are reluctant to confide in the health professionals in the best position to help them rein in health care costs. High numbers of all survey respondents reported being uncomfortable discussing personal financial difficulties with their pharmacist (68%) or their doctor (47%).

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