Over the past several years, the cost of both brand-name and generic drugs has skyrocketed, forcing many Americans to struggle to afford the prescription medications they need. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control reports that the United States’ total out-of-pocket drug costs exceeded $45 billion in 2011. And according to the agency’s most recent National Health Interview Survey, one out of every five Americans has asked their doctor to prescribe a cheaper medication in order to lower their prescription costs.
Predictably, the high cost of drugs hits low-income and uninsured Americans the hardest. Nearly 25 percent of uninsured people didn’t take their prescription drugs as recommended in 2011, compared to about 19 percent of privately-insured people and 15 percent of those on Medicaid. And compared to wealthier Americans, poor and near-poor Americans were twice as likely to skip out on their medication in order to save money:
As the CDC points out, this data actually represents an important public health issue, since Americans who don’t take their medication as directed are risking “negative health outcomes.” The agency notes that the adults who don’t take their prescriptions correctly tend to have “poorer health status and increased emergency room use, hospitalizations, and cardiovascular events.” In fact, a recent report estimated that the Americans neglecting to stick to their prescription drug regimen are contributing to billions of dollars in wasteful medical spending, due to the increased medical care that those people end up requiring.
As Americans struggle to afford their prescription drugs, however, Big Pharma is reaping the profits. Last year, the 11 largest global drug companies raked in almost $85 billion.