Today, the AARP reported that brand name drug prices increased by 41% between 2006-2009, approximately three times the rate of inflation. In the New York Times article announcing the study, AARP refers to the price increases as “relentless”. The media often reports on studies about drug price increases because it’s an issue of great frustration for millions of Americans; and this blog has presented the facts on how tens of millions of Americans skip medication due to cost. But what are the public health ramifications of high drug costs?
It is an indisputable fact that poor medication adherence – simply, not following your doctor’s prescription instructions – leads to greater illness, and sometimes death. The New England Journal of Medicine reports 89,000 deaths per year due to skipped medication. With greater illness comes greater hospitalization numbers, and then, inevitably, greater healthcare costs.
Not only medication, but hospitalization in the U.S. also costs significantly more than in other counties. A recent report by the International Federation of Health Plans finds, “On average, hospital stays cost $1,825 in Spain and $5,004 in Germany, compared with $15,734 in the U.S.” Thus, when Americans end up in the hospital for not taking prescribed medications due to prohibitive drug prices, the overall costs can exponentially increase due to the higher costs of hospitalizations.
According to Robert McCarthy’s article “The price you pay for the drug not taken” (published in October 1998), medication non-compliance is the direct cause of 10% of all hospital admissions in the United States. McCarthy notes that in 1998 Americans were spending “between $60 and $100 billion a year to treat problems caused by noncompliance.” The FDA now estimates the costs at $290 billion a year – that’s almost 10% of all healthcare spending.
These numbers demonstrate that medication non-adherence is a medical emergency in America, and also contributes significantly to our nation’s skyrocketing healthcare costs. Studies show, including one commissioned by the National Consumers League, that drug costs are the main reason Americans do not take their medications, making it clear that high drug prices kill.Tagged with: AARP, drug prices out of reach, durg price study