Falling Prescription Use Reflects Economic Struggle

Patients cut back on prescription drugs and doctor visits last year, a sign that many Americans are still struggling to pay for health care.

Despite huge advances in the drug industry, including medicines from treating cancer, multiple sclerosis, and hepatitis C, the number of prescriptions issues to patients fell by more than 1%. Doctor’s visits fell by almost 5% and were reflected in increased emergency room visits, which were up by more than 7%.

Researchers in a new report from the IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics suggest that declining physician appointments and prescriptions are linked to the loss of health insurance resulting from long-term unemployment. Older Americans were hit the hardest, with prescriptions for those patients down by 3.1%. The biggest drop was in medications used for treating high blood pressure and osteoporosis. All this despite the falling out-of-pocket costs of medicines for those on Medicare Part D.

Even as fewer Americans were using prescription drugs, prescriptions for young adults (aged 19 to 25) rose by 2%, most likely due to the new health care law that allows adult children under 26 to be covered by their parents’ health care plan.

According to the LA Times, “The report also found that several important new medicines were introduced in 2011, including those that improve care for people with hepatitis C, multiple sclerosis and several types of cancer. All told, the report found, the new treatments could help an estimated 2.5 million people who are newly diagnosed with medical conditions each year, and about 20 million people who currently live with the diseases.”

+ Are you struggling to afford health care? Have you been unable to see a doctor due to unemployment or a lack of insurance? The Bon Secours Care-A-Van provides free medical care to residents throughout Hampton Roads.

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