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Money Over Meds: Gov't Finds Americans Skipping Their Prescriptions to Save Money

Update Date: Apr 09, 2013 04:40 AM EDT
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25 percent of the adults admitted to having medical debts that were larger than their emergency savings. (Photo : Images of Money/Flickr)

A new government study released Tuesday reveals that many Americans, especially those under the age of 65, are skipping their prescription medications to save money.

Researchers at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that adults younger than 65 are twice as likely to skip their medication to reduce prescription drug costs, and uninsured people and those with low incomes are most likely to forego needed prescription drugs to save money.

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Survey results revealed that about 13 percent of Americans younger than retirement age did not take their prescribed medications to save money, while 6 percent of older people did the same.

About a fifth of all Americans have asked their doctors for lower cost treatment and about 6 percent of adults younger than 65 and 2 percent of adults older than 65 have tried alternative therapies to avoid prescription drug costs, according to the study that used data from the 2011 National health Interview Survey.

The CDC reveals that in 2011, Americans spent $45 billion out-of-pocket on retail prescription drugs. And according Bloomberg, researchers at the Kaiser Family Foundation predict that spending on drugs will increase an average of 6.6 percent a year from 2015 to 2021.

CDC officials said that cost-reduction strategies used by Americans like skipping doses and delaying filling prescriptions can lead to poorer health and increased emergency room use, hospitalizations and cardiovascular events.

According to USA Today, a recent study from the New England Healthcare Institute revealed that non-adherence to prescription medications costs the U.S. around $290 billion a year. Another study conducted at the University of Maryland in June 2012 found that Medicare patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease who don't take their medications as prescribed had higher hospitalization rates and cost Medicare about $3,764 more than those who did adhere to their prescriptions.

The study revealed that uninsured Americans were most likely than those with Medicaid or private coverage's to use strategies to save money on prescription drugs.

Among those who were uninsured and under retirement age, 23 percent reported saving money by not taking their medication as prescribed compared to 8.7 percent of those with private insurance and 13.6 percent of those with Medicaid.

However there were little differences among adults aged 65 and over. They study found that 4.5 percent of older adults with private coverage reported not taking their medication as prescribed compared to 7.1 percent of those with Medicare and Medicaid coverage and 7.6 percent of those with only Medicare coverage.

"If you're not insured or you face high co-payments, you're going to stretch your prescriptions," Steve Morgan, an associate professor at the University of British Columbia's School of Population and Public Health in Vancouver, told Bloomberg. "Even among insured populations, there is this invincibility mindset among the very young. Older people are more likely to adhere to chronic therapies over a longer period of time than younger."

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