LOS ANGELES – It is probably a sign of the bad economy, but more Americans than ever are not getting the prescription drugs they need, according to new data prepared by Wolters Kluwer Pharma Solutions of Bridgewater, N.J., which monitors drug sales in the United States and abroad. Insurance companies are also increasingly refusing to pay for brand-name drugs, further limiting patients’ ability to get prescriptions filled, and generic drugs are becoming more popular than ever.
A separate study released last month found that about a quarter of prescriptions written by doctors are not filled by patients, particularly for medications for symptomless problems, such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
Even when prescriptions are taken to the pharmacy, 6.3 percent of them were abandoned in 2009, a historically high percentage and an increase of about a quarter over the number from 2008, according to Wolters Kluwer. A prescription is considered abandoned if it is submitted to be filled, but not picked up. The abandonment rate for brand-name drugs was 8.6 percent in 2009, up 23 percent from the previous year and 68 percent since 2006.
The situation is further aggravated by the refusal of many insurers to pay for certain drugs, especially those that are brand-named. Such denials were actually down 1.4 percent in 2009, but were still 22.5 percent higher than in 2006. Combining patient abandonment and payer denials, 14.4 percent of all new prescriptions went unfilled last year.
Surprisingly, patient co-pays for prescriptions have risen only modestly, from $26 on average in 2006 to $31 in 2009, according to the company.