Americans are skipping medications due to high costs, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). As many as 8 percent of all adults in the United States avoid drugs because of the cost, according to officials.
The National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) released a report on methods used by Americans to save money on prescription drug costs.
In addition to people skipping prescribed drugs, 15.1 percent of patients asked healthcare providers for lower-cost medicines. About 4.2 percent of people examined in the study sought out alternative treatments to lower costs, and 1.6 percent purchased drugs in another country.
Young adults, and those with lower than average incomes, were found to be the most likely to skip prescribed drugs. About 8.5 percent of patients aged 18 to 24 passed on medicine in order to save money. Many patients with incomes less than or equal to 139 percent of the federal poverty rate also decided to forego medicine to save cash. Analysis of the data revealed a clear correlation between the income of patients and how often they went without drugs for financial reasons.
Insurance coverage also played a significant role in the health choices made by patients. Approximately 14 percent of uninsured patients did not take their medicine as prescribed, in order to save money. Adults in this age range asked healthcare providers for less expensive alternatives 16.5 percent of the time, used non-prescribed therapies 9.4 percent of the time, and purchased drugs from foreign sources in 4.2 percent of cases.
"Lack of health insurance coverage and poverty are recognized risk factors for not taking medication as prescribed due to cost (2). 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," CDC officials wrote in the report.
Only around 4.4 percent of senior citizens skipped required medicines for financial reasons, the report revealed.
Some patients delayed filling prescriptions, because they were unable to afford the drugs. This was found to be the case for three percent of senior citizens, as well as seven percent of people aged 18 to 64.
Each year in the United States, patients spend about $263 billion on prescription drugs. Roughly 18 percent of these costs are paid out-of-pocket by patients.
Some observers are beginning to question whether Americans are too quick to turn to medicine, rather than other treatments, in order to treat ailments. A study published in the journal BMJ revealed that exercise is just as effective as drugs at preventing heart attacks and strokes. Most headaches can be treated by drinking water and resting, in place of over-the-counter pain killers.