File this under 'what a surprise.' In the aftermath of the recession, a growing number of adults have been searching for different ways to lower their spending on prescription drugs. In particular, those between the ages of 18 and 64 were twice as likely to not have taken medication as prescribed to save money compared with adults aged 65 and over - 12.6 percent compared with 5.8 percent - according to findings from the 2011 National Health Interview Survey, which were released this morning by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
This was not the only tactic for saving money, though, in a year when some $45 billion was spent on prescription drugs. In fact, the most popular approach for all adults was to ask a doctor to prescribe a lower-cost drug; roughly 20 percent of everyone over 18 years of age cited this as a way to lower their expenses. About 2 percent of all adults attempted to purchase medicines from other countries. However, 6 percent of adults between 18 and 64 years old tried alternative therapies, while just 2.3 percent of those 65 and old did so.
Some other findings: Among adults aged between 18 and 64 years old, 8.2 percent skipped doses and 8.5 percent took fewer medicines to save money compared with 3.1 percent and 3.9 percent, respectively, among adults aged 65 and over. And among adults betwen 18 and 64 years old, the uninsured - 23 percent - were more likely than those with Medicaid - 13.6 percent - or those with private coverage - 8.7 percent - to not have taken their meds as prescribed.
Among this same group, those who were uninsured were more likely to ask their doctor for a lower-cost medication to save money - or 24.3 percent - compared with those who had private coverage - nearly 19 percent - and those who had Medicaid, or 15 percent. Those who were uninsured were more likely to use alternative therapies to save money - nearly 12 percent - compared with those who had private coverage -4.2 precnet - and those who had Medicaid - 4.6 percent (here is the survey report).
Of course, skimping on medicines can exact a price of a different sort. As the CDC notes, adults who do not take their medicine as prescribed have been shown to have poorer health status and increased emergency room use, hospitalizations and cardiovascular events. But for those looking to save money, such outcomes may be worth the risk.
To what extent, if any, such trends have eased or even reversed over the past two years is not yet known. But the recent recession was widely blamed for prompting many people to pursue cost-saving measures. Three years ago, for instance, the so-called abandonment rate - the percentage of people who failed to follow through and pick up medications at the pharmacy - began rising in response to economic pressures (back story).