Increasing Number of Patients Abandoning Prescriptions Due to Cost

Doctors, pharmacists and pharmaceutical companies alike are baffled by a new trend emerging that concerns prescription drugs. Due to factors like increasing enrollment in high-deductible medical plans and rising co-pays, more patients are abandoning their prescriptions at the pharmacies that filled them.

A recently published study in the Annals of Internal Medicine identified further reasons for abandoning prescriptions, the types of prescriptions that are typically abandoned and the impact this trend may have on patients' safety and their medical records.

Researchers reviewed and analyzed millions of prescriptions and tracked whether the filled medications were actually picked up at one large pharmacy chain. The purpose of the study was to attempt to predict when prescriptions would be abandoned and try to determine the best way to prevent this for both drug makers, who lose millions of dollars from this practice, and for patients who may be putting themselves in a medical jam.

Prescription Drugs Most Abandoned

According to the study, most prescriptions were picked up within one month of the date they were prescribed. The medications that were not purchased, however, were either first-time prescriptions, electronically delivered scripts or prescriptions with the highest insurance co-pays, such as for brand-name drugs. While co-pays depend on insurance coverage, co-pays can range from $28 for drugs like Lipitor up to over $100 for other brand-name medications. The Lipitor co-pay has risen almost 90 percent in just ten years.

Impact on Patient Safety

For patients with insurance, it comes down to out-of-pocket expenses as to whether they purchase and take their medications. While patients can decide how to spend their money, the practice of cutting corners on medication by abandoning prescriptions may be harmful to their health, especially for those patients who need medications to curb or resolve medical issues. The study indicates that not picking up prescriptions may in turn cause inaccuracies in patients' medical records, as doctors may think certain prescribed medications, supposedly taken, are not helping.

The trend of abandoned prescriptions may also lead to another disturbing health issue, which is known as prescription or medication errors. These types of errors could occur if doctors prescribe different or alternative drugs because they do not know whether a patient actually took a medication or not based on their medical records, which may be inaccurate. While abandoning prescriptions may seem like a cost-saving measure now, it could have long-term costs if patient health and safety is compromised. If you are unable to afford your prescribed medications, talk to your doctor about alternatives. If you believe you have been injured due to a faulty prescription or medication error, contact an experienced medical malpractice attorney in your area.