Dangers of Cutting Corners with Your Medications

As the economy continues to falter and health care premiums rise, more and more Americans are trying to find ways to save money and are scrimping in the one area they probably shouldn't — their medications.

According to a new study by Consumer Reports, more than 25 percent of Americans are reducing the required doses of their prescriptions and/or splitting pills to stretch out their prescription and to avoid having to pay for refills. Some are even taking expired prescriptions or sharing pills with another person.

This phenomenon has followed what experts say is the cutback by Americans on using medical services, as the number of patient visits and prescriptions written have dropped over the last year. This drop is due in part to higher health care costs, loss of health coverage, and higher co-pays or insurance premiums.

Many people are also cutting back on elective surgery, because they are buying insurance plans with high deductibles that force them to pay more up front. These high deductible health insurance plans also require individuals to pay more for prescription drugs. Others find that their prescription plans have changed and they are paying much more for medications that previously may have cost them little or nothing.

That has left many, mostly under the age of 65, looking for ways to squeeze out that last pill. But not following the prescription could bring consequences, since the medications are prescribed to address an illness. Lowering or changing doses without a doctor's knowledge could affect the illness and cost you more in the long run. Instead of taking action on your own, talk to your physician. Your doctor may be able to recommend a cheaper prescription or supply you with free samples of your prescription for a limited time, helping reduce the cost of your medication.