Monday, December 14, 2015
1 out of 5
You've probably seen this on your Facebook or somewhere else on the Internet. It makes a great, catchy negative statement against the evil big pharma. It refers to a study done in 2011 of emergency department patients and the costs associated to the hospital due to re-admissions because patients are/were non-adherent to their medication therapy. See: LINK
As you will note from the abstract, patients with significant problems with non-adherence, in addition to not being able to afford medications, are highly associated with being tobacco users, using illicit drugs, and/or experiencing intimate partner violence. These are NOT your typical Americans. Therefore to make a statement that one in five Americans cannot afford their medication is a real stretch.
Interestingly, for all the hoopla of the statement, it is actually based on a study of 1,506 patients, of which only 384 qualified as "non-adherent to their medication therapy." Out of that 384, only 72 patients (4.8%) disclosed concerns about affording medication. I would imagine if I was hooked on tobacco or illicit drugs I would have a problem paying for my medication as well. Old math or new math, 4.8% is not 1 out of 5.
Some 77.8 million Americans (out of 322 million) are on Medicaid. That's 24%. That means that the other 76% of the populace pay for their healthcare with taxes. The poorest of the poor (and quite a few people who bilk the system) have no problems with paying for their healthcare because someone else pays for it with taxes. In my personal microcosm, I see so many patients on Medicaid that don't pay a dime for their monthly medication while they live in $400,000 homes in Snootyville and drive a Lexus. Yeah, that's just my microcosm, BUT IT'S REAL. Other pharmacists can tell you similar stories.
There's no doubt that when you cut through all the fraud, abuse, and mismanagement, there are genuine people that still can't afford their medication. However, there are many, many avenues and options for help. This Forbes article is full of resources to help people: