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Two thirds of Americans blindsided by drug costs

YONKERS, NY — Sticker shock is taking a toll on Americans when they fill their prescriptions: 66 percent of those polled by Consumer Reports said they found out the cost of a drug when they picked it up at the pharmacy counter, while just 4 percent said they had a conversation with their doctor about the cost of a drug.

 

And 28 percent of Americans told Consumer Reports they’d taken potentially dangerous actions to save money, such as not filling prescriptions, skipping dosages and cutting pills in half without the approval of their doctor.

“We were surprised by the extent to which consumers are cutting corners and the risks they’re taking as a result of belt-tightening. Most importantly, patients need to talk to their doctors about the cost of drugs and let them know when they have difficulty paying for prescriptions,” said Dr. John Santa, director of the Consumer Reports Health Ratings Center.

The poll is being released in conjunction with Consumer Reports Best Drugs For Less, a 60-page magazine that rates more than 200 prescription drugs and over-the-counter medicines for more than 20 conditions including heart disease, diabetes and depression. The publication can be purchased through www.ConsumerReportsHealth.org, where the ratings can be accessed for free.

The ratings are part of a larger initiative by the newly launched Consumer Reports Health Ratings Center to provide consumers with health ratings based on independent and unbiased review of the best scientific evidence available.

Misgivings about generics

When generic versions of a brand name drug are available, they are as safe and effective as the original. For brand name drugs, where a generic version is not available, in many cases doctors or pharmacists can substitute the generic version of an older drug with equivalent effectiveness (and often a longer safety record).
• Nearly half of Americans polled (47 percent) had reservations or misconceptions about taking generic drugs.
• Forty-six percent of Americans polled by Consumer Reports said their physician never or sometimes recommended generics.
• Accurate information about generics is not reaching the consumers who could benefit the most, such as those spending more than $50/month on prescription drugs (52 percent).

Heeding direct-to-consumer drug advertising

”The pharmaceutical industry undermines generic drugs very effectively through advertising and free samples of brand-name drugs, while using more subtle tactics to tell patients and doctors that generics are something to be afraid of,” said Dr. Santa.
• One fifth of people who regularly take a prescription medication have requested a drug from their doctor that they had seen in a drug ad and the majority (67 percent) said their doctor wrote the prescription.
• Eighty percent of the same group said they had received free drug samples from their doctors.
• Consumers perceive the undue influence of pharmaceutical companies on their doctors. Those practices raising the greatest concern among consumers were rewarding doctors who write a lot of prescriptions (82 percent); receiving fully paid trips (77 percent) or gifts worth more than $50 (76 percent); and paying for doctors’ attendance at meetings (67 percent).

The Consumer Reports National Research Center conducted a telephone survey of a nationally representative probability sample of telephone households. A total of 2,004 interviews were completed among adults ages 18+ and interviewing took place January 15-19, 2009. The margin of error is +/-3.4 % points at a 95 percent confidence level.