More Consumers Opting Not To Fill Prescriptions Because of Economic Pressures, New Research Indicates
Fewer U.S. residents are filling prescriptions because of the current economic recession, according to a study released on Tuesday, the Wall Street Journal reports. Although sales of prescription drugs typically are unaffected by fluctuations in the economy, this recession is "having an unusually negative impact," according to the Journal.
The study, conducted by Wolters Kluwer Health, found that U.S. patients did not fill 6.8% of the brand-name prescriptions their physicians ordered in the fourth quarter of 2008 because of cost. That figure is a 22% increase over the first quarter of 2007, according to the study. Researchers said that higher copayments and other coverage features contributed to the number of patients who were unwilling to pay for their prescriptions. The study also found that patients did not fill 4.1% of generic prescriptions during the fourth quarter of 2008. Generic prescriptions increased to 2.4 billion in 2008, up 200 million compared with 2007, while orders for brand-name medicines declined by 200 million for 2008 to 1.4 billion, the study found.
The study also found that insurers are denying coverage of brand-name prescriptions when a less-expensive alternative is available. Insurers denied 10.8% of brand-name prescriptions in the fourth quarter of 2008, a 21% increase over the first quarter of 2007, according to the study. In addition, the study found that prescriptions for generic drugs were increasing at a compounded annual rate of 12% between 2004 and 2008, while brand-name prescriptions were falling at a 6.1% annualized rate.
According to the Journal, the study's results are not positive developments for drugmakers, who already are "struggling to replace" blockbuster treatments that are scheduled to lose patent protection in the near future. "If you talk to heads of pharmaceutical companies, I don't think they'd say they're immune from recessions right now," Mark Spivers, head of Wolters Kluwer's health care data and analytics unit, said (Rockoff, Wall Street Journal, 4/8).
The study is available online.