Patients Forgoing Prescriptions – Some for Good Reasons

Patients failed to fill 6.8% of prescriptions for name-brand drugs and 4.1% of generic prescriptions in 2008, according to an article in the Wall Street Journal. This has prompted some to conclude that patients are forgoing medications to save money. Yet considering how many people obtain prescriptions they don’t take and how many take prescriptions that don’t work, asking patients to assess how much their drugs are really worth to them may not be such a bad idea.

In The Innovator’s Prescription, Clayton Christensen and his colleagues point to data from the Physicians’ Desk Reference showing that:

  • 40% of asthma patients do not respond to drug therapy
  • 50% of migraine patients do not respond to drug therapy
  • 70% of Alzheimer’s patients do not respond to drug therapy

Past studies have found that, even for people who start drug therapy, about half discontinue therapy within a year. One reason many patients stop taking medications is because the medication isn’t working – possibly because they’ve been misdiagnosed.

Comments (4)

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  1. Vicki says:

    Devon, thanks for this post. People just assume when patients cut back on their drug consumption, their health suffers. In fact, they may be better off if they have to stop and think about the health value of what they are taking versus the monetary cost.

  2. Stehpen C. says:

    Agree with Vicki.

  3. Devon Herrick says:

    According to studies published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, a senior receives one inappropriate medication for roughly every 12 doctor visits. Currently, some 20 percent of seniors are taking at least one medication that is not recommended for their age group, 15 percent are taking two inappropriate drugs and 4 percent have been prescribed three drugs deemed inappropriate. The likelihood of inappropriate medication is about double for women and increases when multiple drugs are prescribed.

    Source: “Shopping for Drugs: 2007,” Section 9, Weighing the Costs and Benefits of a Drug;

  4. Richard Walker says:

    A new Thomson Reuters survey reports one in five Americans are putting off medical care, primarily because of cost: