Some Americans are making sacrifices and taking risks to afford their meds

 

Rising drug prices have become a public health crisis, forcing too many Americans into making some tough choices. In a recent Consumer Reports Best Buy Drugs’ poll of 1,037 U.S. adults who currently take a prescription medication, one third said they were hit with higher drug prices at the pharmacy counter in the past year. And while the average increase was $39 extra out-of-pocket, one in 10 reported paying $100 or more over what they’d previously paid. Those higher prices led nearly 40 percent of people to take potentially harmful risks with their medication in order to curb costs, including skipping filling a prescription, skipping a dosage, cutting pills in half without a doctor or pharmacist’s OK, and even taking expired meds.

While people facing unexpected high costs were more than twice as likely to avoid seeing their doctor or forego a medical procedure than those who didn’t, the financial setbacks affected more than their health. Perhaps the most troubling cutback: A third (32 percent) of poll respondents paying higher prices said

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In a previous guest post, Alison Lawton of the Access Our Medicine Initiative wrote on the importance of affordable medications and AOM’s goal to reach 100,000 signatures for their Access Our Medicine Declaration. Having achieved their goal, they are now planning a worldwide Thunderclap of awareness.

When we launched the Access Our Medicine Initiative on World Health Day last year I didn’t know if anyone would respond.

We knew that the price of medicine was rising for life-changing medicines with devastating consequences for everyone, around the globe. We learned of people choosing between food and medicine, being pushed into poverty and even dying because they couldn’t afford medicine they needed.

But I also knew that for many people the issue of access to affordable medicine just isn’t top of mind until they or their loved ones become sick. By then its too late – who has energy to talk about ways to improve the system and make medicine affordable at the moment when the priority is on advocating health for themselves or their friends and family?

And yet, the response has been overwhelming. People

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Medicines can only work in patients who can take them. If we have medicines today to treat people and they can’t access them, then we have to make changes. That’s why we launched the Access Our Medicine Initiative.

The Access Our Medicine Initiative launched in April 2014 inviting people to sign an online declaration with a simple statement – that everyone should have access to affordable medicine. Since then, over 75,000 people from 160 countries and a diverse range of organizations representing more than 400 million people have signed the Declaration at www.accessourmedicine.com.

Why are so many people interested?

Even with the Affordable Care Act, over 30 million Americans will not be able to afford their medicine. People are making sacrifices for their medicine, or are risking their health by sacrificing their medicine. Nobody should have to choose between filling prescriptions and buying groceries.

As part of the Access Our Medicine Initiative, we want to support critical organizations such as NeedyMeds offering immediate support to those patients and families needing access to medicine. I’m grateful to have NeedyMeds’

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More and more Americans struggle everyday with the rising cost of medications.  This can lead to families making difficult decisions, often forgoing needed meds in order to cover the cost of food, housing, or transportation.  However, there is help available.  Many pharmaceutical companies, along with some pharmacies and non-profit groups, manage Patient Assistance Programs (or PAPs) that offer the medication at reduced or no cost.  So how do these programs work?  And where can you find one?

What is a PAP?

Patient Assistance Programs are programs usually designed by a pharmaceutical company to offer medications to low income or uninsured patients for free or with a small co-pay.  You may have heard of them before, usually at the end of an advertisement for a medication they will mention that financial help is available for those who qualify.  To enroll the patient needs to fill out an application form and get their doctor’s signature and sometimes a prescription.  For many patient assistance programs the applicant will need to prove their income level – usually with a tax document or copy of their paystub.

Where

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Plus: How to lower your drug costs

Americans take a lot of medicines – and many resort to risky behaviors to afford them. That’s according to a recent national telephone poll by public-education project Consumer Reports Best Buy Drugs.  Forty-four percent of Americans take an average of 4.5 prescription drugs; 16 percent say they take 7 or more.

To afford those medications, more than half (57 percent) of those polled reported taking steps in the last year—some of them potentially dangerous—to curb high drug costs. That included not filling a prescription (17 percent), skipping a scheduled dose (14 percent), and taking an expired medication (14 percent).

The cost of medications affect people’s wallets in other ways, too. Three in 10 (29 percent) reported cutting back on entertainment and dining out; 19 percent spent less on groceries, and 15 percent put off paying other bills in order to afford their prescription drugs. And, people without drug coverage from their insurance were hit the hardest.

What to do if you face high costs

Don’t wait for your doctor to bring up the cost of medications—he or she may not. Instead,  ask

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