One in 8 people with heart disease can’t afford medications, study says

Nov. 25 (UPI) — High drug prices really hit home for patients with heart disease.

In a study published Monday in the journal Circulation, researchers report that one in eight adults with common heart diseases either skip taking medications, delay filling prescriptions or take lower-than-prescribed doses because of concerns about cost.

Not taking pills as prescribed is a known problem for people with cardiovascular diseases, the authors say, and it can result in patients needing more expensive care later on.

“The out-of-pocket cost of medications is a huge issue for millions of high-risk patients with cardiovascular diseases,” Khurram Nasir, senior author of the study and chief of the division of cardiovascular prevention and wellness at Houston Methodist DeBakey Heart & Vascular Center in Texas, said in a press release. “While non-compliance has several causes, in recent years the rising share of health care costs paid directly by patients has become a concern. We wanted to understand the scope of medication non-compliance due to costs.”

Nasir and his colleagues analyzed survey responses from 14,279 adults who took part in the National Health Interview Survey between 2013 and 2017. All had previously been diagnosed with coronary heart disease, heart-related chest pain, a heart attack or a stroke.

In addition to the nearly 2.2 million people who hadn’t taken their medication as prescribed because of cost , the researchers found that, during the previous year, cost-related medication non-compliance was three times more common in people under 65 years of age.

Among those under 65, one in four women, one in three of those from low-income families and more than half of those without health insurance reported not taking their medications as prescribed in order to save money.

In general, people who did not take medications as prescribed due to cost concerns were 11 times more likely to request low-cost medication and nine times more likely to use “alternative, non-prescription therapies,” compared to people who reported that financial concerns did not impact their decision.

The study did not examine the specific medications patients were prescribed and which were more likely to result in cost-related non-compliance.

“When faced with the expenses of taking lifesaving medications as prescribed or not taking them because they are too costly, many choose not to take them,” Nasir said. “Patients should not be afraid to speak with their health care provider if they are not able to afford a prescribed medication since there are many lower-cost generic drugs which might also be effective for their condition.”

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