Showing posts with label Medical Costs. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Medical Costs. Show all posts

Monday, August 27, 2012

Skipping Your Medicine - A Prescription for Risk

Your Health and Medicine:  How Stopping or Skipping Medication is a Prescription for Risk

Common sense tells us that when people skip prescribed medication, it can negatively affect their health.  But did you know that when people stop their medicine prematurely it affects the overall medicine costs of the community and average cost of individual prescriptions?

The Non-Adherence Problem

The term used by the pharmaceutical and health industry is medication non-adherence—not adhering to the instructions provided with prescribed medications.  It can take many forms, including:
  • Discontinuing medication  
  • Reducing or skipping dosages  
  • Failing to follow directions 
  • Taking expired medications

skipping prescriptions
Non-adherence of medical prescriptions is rampant and costly.
There are health risks involved with medication non-adherence. For example, discontinuing antibiotics can cause the illness to return and make it difficult for another antibiotic to work effectively the next time. Reducing dosages might not be effective as many dosages are prescribed according to patients' weight. Some medications need to maintain a certain level in the blood stream to be affective. Skipping doses interferes with those levels. Expired medications can lose potency and may not be as effective.

Surprising Statistics

The World Health Organization (WHO) reports about 50 percent of patients do not take medications as prescribed.  A Consumer Reports survey of over 2,000 adults found that: 
  • 16% did not get prescriptions filled the first time.
  • 13% admitted to taking expired medicine.  
  • About 13%  skip doses or even stop taking medicine without doctor’s approval. 
  • 4% share their prescription with another person.
  • 8% split prescription pills to make them last longer without checking with their doctor.
Clearly, non-adherence of medical prescriptions is rampant.  But is this a big deal?

The Risks

Stopping medicine or skipping prescriptions can affect your health  because it increases your chances of becoming sicker.  According to The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), personal healthcare costs often increase as a result of not following prescription instructions.  This is ironic, since a common reason for skipping medication is to save money.

medication costs
Skipping prescriptions is linked to increase in hospitalization.
PhRMA statistics show an increase in hospitalizations, nursing home admissions, doctor appointments, and other healthcare costs that could have been avoided by taking prescriptions as directed.  Hospitalization, re-hospitalization and premature death were more than five times higher for hypertension patients who did not follow prescription instructions than those who did. For patients being treated for heart disease, health complications nearly doubled for those who did not follow prescription instructions. Diabetics who skipped 6 out of 10 doses of their medications were 3.6 times more likely to be hospitalized, compared to patients who followed prescribed treatments. PhRMA also warns of the following problems when we don't don't follow prescription directions.
  • Not following prescription directions is linked to 125,000 deaths each year.
  • The financial cost may be as high as $300 billion per year.
  • It is associated with up to 40% of nursing home admissions.
  • Adds $2,000 annually per patient in physician visit costs.
Many who skip or reduce their medication for financial reasons are in high-risk categories, such as the elderly, lower incomes, and those dealing with a chronic health condition. Increased hospitalization is a burden on public resources. The result is health care costs increases for entire communities.

The Good News - Tips to Reduce Costs

If money is tight, here are two ways to significantly lower your out-of-pocket medication costs without resorting to skipping doses or stopping prescriptions.

1. Request generic drugs.

Ask your doctor if the medication has an approved generic.  In some cases, generics may save up to 75% compared to the brand name version.  When changing to the generic version of a drug, always check first with your doctor.  To find out more about saving with generic drugs, see the FamilyWize article Understanding Generic Drugs.

2. Seek low income prescription assistance.

Medical prescription assistance is available nationwide in the U.S. through government and privately funded programs that are designed for those who cannot afford the cost of prescriptions or who do not have prescription coverage through a health insurance plan. 

To find such resources, perform a search engine query using the phrase “medical prescription assistance in _____” fill in the blank with your community or county name.
You can also get help from nationwide resources such as FamilyWize or Partnership for Prescription Assistance.  FamilyWize, whose mission is is to reduce the cost of prescription medicine for children, families, and individuals by $1 billion by the end of 2015, offers a FREE prescription card to those who need prescription assistance.  Find out more at

Ric Moxley
Contributing Writer