Fewer Consumers Filling Their Prescriptions

Published July 1, 2009

A failing economy is to blame for U.S. patients not filling their prescriptions, a study by a Philadelphia-based heath information company suggests.

The study, conducted by Wolters-Kluwer Health, found U.S. patients did not fill 6.8 percent of the brand-name prescriptions ordered by physicians in the fourth quarter of 2008, a 22 percent increase over the first quarter of 2007.

Patients treated generics more favorably, failing to fill 4.1 percent of generic prescriptions.

More Information Needed

“When it comes to compliance on filling medical prescriptions, there are two types of people: Those who never fill them, and those who don’t fill them because they can’t,” said Peter Pitts, director of New York-based Center for Medicine in the Public Interest and former associate commissioner of the federal Food and Drug Administration.

That’s one of the failures of the study, Pitts said.

“The study didn’t break down what percent does have insurance and what percent does not,” Pitts said, “as well as what group qualifies for assistance.

“The statistics presented in this study are only showing you part of what is going on,” Pitts said. “It is not dishonest; it just incomplete information, which is a prescription for disaster.”

Turning to Generic Drugs

“The truth is, the growth in prescription drug co-payments outpaces the growth of prescription drug prices,” Pitts said. “The price of co-pay is going up four times [as fast as] the price of the drug. The problem isn’t with the cost of the drug; the problem is with the insurance. When co-pay goes down, compliance will come up.”

According to the report, “generic prescriptions increased to 2.4 billion in 2008, up 200 million compared with 2007, while orders for brand-name medicines declined by 200 million for 2008, to 1.4 billion.”

Shikha Dalmia, a senior policy analyst for the Reason Foundation based in Washington, DC, said turning to generic drugs “isn’t necessarily a bad thing” and, “considering the severity of this recession,” she isn’t too shocked.

“What is bad is if people are forgoing drugs and, therefore, their health gets worse,” Dalmia said.
A better-treated patient, Pitts and Dalmia agreed, is essentially less expensive.

Government Power Grab Feared

Ultimately, Pitts explained, the results of the study will be used as just “another credit for Uncle Sam.

“This is another piece of information that will be used to support a massive government takeover. And if you want to reform health care, we have to look at all of the facts, not just some of them,” Pitts added.

Elisha Maldonado ([email protected]) writes from California.

For more information …

“2008 Sees Significant Rise in Prescription Abandonment and Uptake of Generics,” Wolters-Kluwer Health: http://is.gd/Dfsk