Adults forgo medication to save money

January 30, 2015

To save money, almost 8% of U.S. adults did not take their medication as prescribed, according to National Center for Health Statistics report.

To save money, almost 8% of U.S. adults did not take their medication as prescribed, according to a National Center for Health Statistics report.

Adults aged 18 to 64 years (8.5%) were nearly twice as likely as adults aged 65 and older (4.4%) to not have taken medication as prescribed to save money.

Strategies most commonly used also differed in relation to income and insurance status.

“Lack of health insurance coverage and poverty are recognized risk factors for not taking medication as prescribed due to cost,” according to lead author of the report Robin A. Cohen, PhD. “This cost-saving strategy may result in poorer health status and increased emergency room use and hospitalizations, compared with adults who follow their recommended pharmacotherapy.”

Among U.S. adults aged 18 to 64, strategies for reducing prescription drug costs were more commonly practiced by those who were uninsured than those who had public or private insurance coverage.

Among adults aged 65 and over, those living with incomes in the 139% to 400% FPL range were more likely than adults living in lower or higher income thresholds to have asked their provider for a lower cost prescription to save money, according to the report.

“A percentage of US adults don’t take their medication as prescribed because of its costs and the use of strategies such as asking a doctor for a lower cost medication or not taking medication as prescribed,” Cohen said. “These factors differ in relation to age, income, or insurance status.”

Data from the 2013 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) were used for this analysis.

The NHIS collects information about the health and healthcare of the civilian noninstitutionalized population of the United States. Questions about strategies to reduce prescription drug costs were introduced to the survey instrument in 2011. In 2013, these questions were asked of more than 34,000 adults aged 18 years and over.