- One-third of Americans didn't fill at least one of their prescriptions over the past year because of drug costs, according to results from a survey recently conducted by GoodRx, a company that aggregates and analyzes drug pricing data.
- Nearly all the survey respondents said they had some kind of health insurance, yet 42% noted they were still having difficulty paying for medications. When asked how they paid for prescription drugs, 19% said they tapped into their savings over the past year. Roughly the same number of people reported having trouble affording things like food or housing due to the cost of their medicine.
- The online survey ran from Oct. 29 through Nov. 2 and had 1,060 respondents who spanned "all genders and ages," wrote Thomas Goetz, head of GoodRx's research team, in a Monday post on the company's website. Goetz added that GoodRx would "follow up on this survey with other regular assessments exploring how medications create significant financial burdens to Americans."
Pharmaceutical companies often highlight how patients rarely pay the initial price — called the list price — set for a drug because of the rebates and discounts offered to payers. Yet GoodRx's survey and reports like it underscore that, for many patients, the costs of prescription drugs remain a barrier to access even when insurance helps foot the bill.
Of the more than 1,060 responders to GoodRx's survey, 94% said they had health insurance in one form or another. When it came time to pay for their medications, however, 17% said they had to borrow money from family or friends to do so. Almost 4% said they took out a loan.
On another question, nearly 40% reported using a discount or coupon on their prescription medications in the past year.
"Americans are increasingly finding discounts or coupon prices can beat their insurance co-pay, especially for the commonly prescribed generic medications that most Americans take," GoodRx's Goetz wrote in the Nov. 25 post.
That conclusion aligns with a recent report from Iqvia, which found coupon use was partially responsible for a modest decline from 2013 to 2017 in the proportion of claims with patient cost exposure greater than $50. Though around 98% of prescriptions cost less than $50 in 2017, Iqvia noted that the ones costing more than that accounted for almost 41% of all patient out-of-pocket costs.
Overall, patients spent $57.8 billion out-of-pocket for medicines last year, a figure that includes copays, co-insurance, deductible payments and expenses for the non-insured, according to Iqvia. Prescriptions costing $10 or more comprised 20% of total prescriptions but 78% of out-of-pocket expenses.
Another recent report from the Government Accountability Office determined prescription drug spending nearly doubled between the 1990s and 2015, when it accounted for about 12% of personal healthcare service spending.
Altogether, the reports indicate that, even with higher discounts or broader insurance coverage, prescription drugs can still be costly or inaccessible to a large number of U.S. patients.