You’d think we were all popping pills like crazy

But you’d be wrong:

More than a quarter of Americans who take prescription drugs have skipped doses, split pills or cut other corners to save money in the last year, according to a new study by Consumer Reports

This telephone survey, of 1,154 adults who currently take at least one prescription drug, found that 27% “failed to comply” with their prescriptions in some way during the past year. Most commonly that involved skipping a prescription fill, taking an expired medication, skipping a dose, splitting pills or sharing a prescription with someone else.

That kind of cutback was most common among people who were under age 65 and didn’t have prescription-drug coverage.

For 64% of respondents, the first they heard about the cost of a prescription was when they picked it up from a pharmacist. About half agreed with the notion that doctors don’t consider a patient’s ability to pay when they prescribe a drug.

Much like malpractice reform, the problem with pharmaceuticals in this country is two-sided.  Yes, we hear all the time from critics of the pharmaceutical industry that too many people are on drugs or that we care encouraging more and more people to take pharmaceuticals.  But we shouldn’t forget the many, many people who need those medications can’t get them.

Notice that most of the people who are not getting their drugs are below 65.  This isn’t a Medicare problem.  Nor is this a “choice”.  People can’t afford drugs.

This is one of those instances when I do agree that we’ve got moral hazard problems.  If people were told, in the office, that they could have a pricy brand-name drug or a much cheaper generic drug, which often are the same molecule, people should choose the cheaper drug.  Right?  So why aren’t they given that option?

70% of those surveyed agreed, to some extent, with the notion that pharma companies have too much influence on physicians’ prescription decisions. (It should be noted that with this type of question, phrasing is everything.)

Some 47% agreed with the idea that physicians’ prescription choices are influenced by pharma-industry gifts; they were also concerned about the practice of rewarding physicians who write a lot of prescriptions for a given drug (81%) and paying doctors for testimonials or as spokespersons (72%).

Consumers themselves aren’t immune from pharma-industry influence: 20% reported requesting from a doctor a drug they’d heard about via direct-to-consumer advertising. Of those, nearly 59% came away with a prescription. Two-thirds have received free samples from their physician — and people with high incomes and prescription drug coverage were the most likely to get them.

I know that this is just people’s opinions.  It’s not fact.  But it’s backed up by fact, and if enough of you demand those papers, I will dig them out.  Doctors are influenced by pharma and that’s a big reason why they continue to prescribe the most expensive drugs.

This is an area where we (1) spend a lot of money, (2) there are easy ways to save money without sacrificing outcomes, and (3) people aren’t getting what they need because of the cost.  This is a perfect example of hte low-hanging fruit that almost everyone should agree should be solvable.  Think it will happen?

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