Why Do 13% of U.S. Adults Skip Medication? Money

expensive medication

An alarmingly high number of people report skipping doses of their medication in order to save money, according to a new study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC also counted many reports of individuals saving money by delaying the fulfillment of their prescriptions. In total, the organization found that 12.6% of individuals between age 18 and 64 stray from the prescriptions given to them by their health care providers in order to pinch pennies. By comparison, just 5.8% of people over the age of 64 said the same, providing some reassurance. The survey used to come to these findings was distributed nationally in 2011.

The original intent of the study was to gather information for the researchers about the money-saving methods people use to lower their prescription drug expenses.

Skipping Doses, Cutting Pills in Half

The study found the following regarding people between 18 and 64 years of age:

  • 8.2% skip dosages of their medication in order to save money
  • 8.5% take smaller dosages than what’s prescribed, typically by breaking pills in half
  • 10.6% procrastinate on having prescriptions filled or refilled as they wait for available funds

Some individuals said they used two or even three of these tactics in order to save money. As expected, individuals without health insurance and individuals living near or under the poverty line were most likely to report engaging in these money-saving but potentially dangerous practices.

Worth the Danger?

The CDC report says that individuals who stray from their prescribed doctor’s orders are more likely to incur hospitalization, a trip to the emergency room, or even a potentially life-threatening outcome such as a heart attack or stroke. Of course, the actual dangers of delaying or skipping medication will depend on the type of medication being delayed or skipped, as well as the condition for which the medication has been prescribed.

About $45 billion was spent on prescription drugs in 2011, according to the study. The study also revealed that about 20% of adults have attempted to save money on prescription drugs by asking their doctors for cheaper meds. A lower percentage of individuals reported using alternative treatments (6%) or purchasing medication internationally (2%), both of which could be potentially dangerous if done without the proper precautions.

A safer, more reliable way to save on prescription drugs is by purchasing the generic version of these drugs instead. However, generic drug prices vary enormously according to a recent study, especially during the first year after a prescription drug goes generic, which is why it pays to shop around before committing to a purchase.

The Bottom Line

Nearly 13% of U.S. adults take dangerous measures such as skipping pills, lowering dosages or delaying the fulfillment of a monthly script in order to save money on prescription drugs, according to a new CDC study.

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