45 Million Americans Forego Medications Due to Cost, New Analysis Shows – 9 Times the Rate of the UK

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Using survey data from the Commonwealth Fund, which shows 18% of Americans did not fill a prescription in 2016 because of cost, the new analysis by Prescription Justice applies that percentage to the estimated adult population in 2016, which comes out to approximately 45 million, 10 million more than is often reported.

Taking on the crisis of high drug prices in America

Tens of millions of Americans are not taking medications because of high drug prices. We urge President Trump to keep his campaign promise to stand up to big pharma.

About 45 million Americans did not fill a prescription in 2016 due to the costs of pharmaceuticals, a new analysis by Prescription Justice shows, with 18% of adults reporting this problem in a recent survey. This rate of foregoing medicine due to cost is nine times higher than in the United Kingdom, where medicine is largely covered by national health insurance. The analysis conducted by Prescription Justice —a non-profit organization dedicated to tackling the crisis of high drug prices — is based on data extracted from the Commonwealth Fund’s 2016 International Health Policy Survey of Adults.

“Americans cannot afford to wait a day longer for drug price relief,” said Jodi Dart, Executive Director of Prescription Justice. “Tens of millions of Americans are not taking medications because of high drug prices. We urge President Trump to keep his campaign promise to stand up to big pharma and bring relief to millions of Americans who are unduly suffering because they can’t afford the vital medications that will help them get better.”

The data also show a likely link between the advent of the Affordable Care Act and the percentage decrease in people who have had to forego prescription medication due to cost in recent years. Prior to ACA implementation, 21% of Americans reported not filling prescriptions due to cost. That number has dropped three percentage points since the Affordable Care Act took effect in late 2013.

A previous estimate of the number of adult Americans who did not fill a prescription because of cost was 35 million, which was based on an earlier Commonwealth Fund Survey from 2014, which only involved adults ages 18-64, not all adults ages 18 and over, including elder Americans, as included in the new survey.

Prescription Justice has published a proposal recommending that the Trump Administration take immediate executive actions, as permitted under current law, to expand access to lower cost, safe personally imported medications: an action supported by Mr. Trump during his campaign. As described in the proposal, Americans can often obtain medications at just 10% of the U.S. cost by purchasing them from international online pharmacies dispensing from licensed pharmacies in other countries, such as the UK and Canada. Annually, about four million Americans, according to U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data, already import medication for personal use each year. Nineteen million Americans have said they have done so, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. Despite federal restrictions no serious adverse events have been reported by patients who imported medication with a valid prescription, according to Prescription Justice.

Percentage of population in each country of people not filling prescriptions due to cost in 2016

United States: 18%
Canada: 10%
Switzerland: 9%
Australia: 6%
New Zealand: 6%
Sweden: 6%
France: 4%
Netherlands: 4%
Norway: 3%
United Kingdom: 2%
(Source: Adapted from Commonwealth Fund’s 2016 International Health Policy Survey of Adults).

Prescription Justice is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to providing relief and protection for American patients. It brings together doctors, lawyers, public health advocates, and companies dedicated to helping people afford medication. More information is at http://www.prescriptionjustice.org.

Contact: Jodi Dart, jodi(at)pjag(dot)org. Phone: (217) 306-5823

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