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NYT: People Now Can’t Afford Medicine

From where else but the New York Times:

Lori Stewart is trying to decide whether to discontinue the Alzheimer’s medications of her mother, Eleanor Stewart, 66.

In Sour Economy, Some Scale Back on Medications


October 22, 2008

For the first time in at least a decade, the nation’s consumers are trying to get by on fewer prescription drugs.

As people around the country respond to financial and economic hard times by juggling the cost of necessities like groceries and housing, drugs are sometimes having to wait.

“People are having to choose between gas, meals and medication,” said Dr. James King, the chairman of the American Academy of Family Physicians, a national professional group. He also runs his own family practice in rural Selmer, Tenn.

“I’ve seen patients today who said they stopped taking their Lipitor, their cholesterol-lowering medicine, because they can’t afford it,” Dr. King said one recent morning.

“I have patients who have stopped taking their osteoporosis medication.”

On Tuesday, the drug giant Pfizer, which makes Lipitor, the world’s top-selling prescription medicine, said United States sales of that drug were down 13 percent in the third quarter of this year.

Through August of this year, the number of all prescriptions dispensed in the United States was lower than in the first eight months of last year, according to a recent analysis of data from IMS Health, a research firm that tracks prescriptions.

Although other forces are also in play, like safety concerns over some previously popular drugs and the transition of some prescription medications to over-the-counter sales, many doctors and other experts say consumer belt-tightening is a big factor in the prescription downturn.

The trend, if it continues, could have potentially profound implications.

If enough people try to save money by forgoing drugs, controllable conditions could escalate into major medical problems. That could eventually raise the nation’s total health care bill and lower the nation’s standard of living

Although the overall decline in prescriptions in the IMS Health data was less than 1 percent, it was the first downturn after more than a decade of steady increases in prescriptions, as new drugs came on the market and the population aged.

From 1997 to 2007, the number of prescriptions filled had increased 72 percent, to 3.8 billion last year. In the same period, the average number of prescriptions filled by each person in this country increased from 8.9 a year in 1997 to 12.6 in 2007.

Dr. Timothy Anderson, a Sanford C. Bernstein & Company pharmaceutical analyst who analyzed the IMS data and first reported the prescription downturn last week, said the declining volume was “most likely tied to a worsening economic environment.” …

The average co-payment for drugs on insurers’ “preferred” lists rose to $25 in 2007, from $15 in 2000, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit health care research organization. And, of course, lots of people have no drug insurance at all. That includes the estimated 47 million people in the United States with no form of health coverage, but it is also true for some people who have medical insurance that does not include drug coverage — a number for which no good data may exist.

For older Americans, the addition of Medicare drug coverage in 2006 through the Part D program has meant that 90 percent of Medicare-age people now have drug insurance. And in the early going, Part D had helped stimulate growth in the nation’s overall number of prescriptions, as patients who previously had no coverage flocked to Part D.

But a potential coverage gap in each recipient’s benefit each year — the so-called Part D doughnut hole — means that many Medicare patients are without coverage for part of the year.

The recent IMS Health figures reveal that prescription volume declined in June, in July and again in August, mirroring studies from last year suggesting that prescription use begins dropping at about the time more Medicare beneficiaries begin entering the doughnut hole…

For some other people, the boundaries of when and where to cut back are less distinct.

Lori Stewart of Champaign, Ill., is trying to decide whether to discontinue her mother’s Alzheimer’s medications, which seem to have only marginal benefit.

“The medication is $182 a month,” said Ms. Stewart, who recently wrote about the dilemma on her personal blog.

“It’s been a very agonizing decision for me. It is literally one-fifth of her income.”

Huh. Wouldn’t the news that people are taking fewer prescription medications normally be treated as good news by our media? Especially in view of their hatred of “big pharma”?

And we are talking about a supposed downturn of less than one percent (1%):

Although the overall decline in prescriptions in the IMS Health data was less than 1 percent…

How shocking!

Still, isn’t it possible that this is a consequence of the rise of Obama? Perhaps people are being healed by the power of the Messiah?

By the way, was it not President Bush who pushed through the biggest prescription drug aid package in history?

The very lengthy New York Times article does mention the program, but somehow neglects to mention how this came to pass.

This article was posted by Steve on Wednesday, October 22nd, 2008. Comments are currently closed.

7 Responses to “NYT: People Now Can’t Afford Medicine”

  1. RightWinger says:

    They have to cut back. In a choice between medicine or sending money to the Obama campaign, people have decided that sending money to the Obama campaign was more important. After all, Obama and the DNC between the 2 of them raked in almost $200 million in September. Since the money is clearly being funded by terrorist groups and American hating countries average American citizens, we can only assume these people are willing cutting back on medicinal costs in order to get Obama into the White House.

  2. Liberals Demise says:

    If the Democraps are who they say they are and REALLY cared for you and I, Congress would have done something about it.For it is they who dangle and smear pig grease on everything that gets passed.But it is for easier to point to the sky and say “Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain”! I am lucky for good health so far(Knock on wood). Although I could use a job!! I dont want a hand out….I will take a hand up though.

  3. Media_man says:

    As someone who works directly for Big Pharma, my take on the downturn is that the baseline period was 2007, the first full year where Medicare Part D removed most, if not all, financial obstacles for Medicare eligible seniors to access prescription drugs via private insurance.

    A more realistic analysis would discuss how this program has been successful in allowing seniors’ to access prescription drugs, who previously couldn’t afford them. And more importantly, since the Part D program was run by private insurance companies, it came in under budget, unheard of for Federal healthcare programs.

    Therefore, since Part D was passed by the GOP, & is run by private insurance, & is a proven success, the Dems will make sure this program is killed. They’ll replace it w/ a VA style formulary w/ a highly restricted list of drugs w/ mandated discounts of 80%. The industry will make up for it by reduced R&D & higher prices for the private sector.

    More good gov’t from the Dems. Robbing Peter to pay Paul.

  4. curvyred says:

    For the most part we are overmedicated, so hooray!

  5. pinandpuller says:

    “Save me Tom Cruise!”- Ricky Bobby

  6. JohnMG says:

    I guess it’s a difficult choice for Lori’s mom. Evidently it comes down to buying her prescription meds or dog food for little Muffin. Notice, also, that Lori resides in the great state of Illinois. You don’t suppose that has anything to do with this article, do you?

  7. imnewatthis says:

    If the Alzheimer’s med is $182 and only provides marginal benefits, why is it such a wrenching decision?

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