Medicare Part D Is Not Enough For Many Seniors Suggests IMS Study

Some pharmaceutical industry folks, and their political allies, like to make the point that our nation’s seniors no longer need access to lower cost foreign medication because they now have new and improved Medicare drug plans. But a new report by IMS indicates that drug costs are having a negative effect on public health, including for our seniors’. Put simply, the data indicates that even with the improvements and savings offered by Part D of Medicare (Medicare’s drug benefit), seniors still struggle to afford the drugs they need.

According to the report, medicine use by 65 year olds decreased 3.1% — the largest decrease in any age group. As reported in the New York Times, Michael Kleinrock, director of research development at the IMS Institute for Health Informatics, a group that consults for the drug industry, said that seniors appear to be “rationing their care as they struggled to pay rising bills on fixed incomes.” Mr. Kleinrock also said, “We’re reaching a tipping point where patients will actually take that increased cost and use less medicine.” Leigh Purvis, who studies drug prices for the AARP explains that the drugs most often cut are those “where you don’t necessarily develop symptoms when you stop taking them.”

Greatest Prescription Decline for Adults 65 +

Source: IMS Health, LifeLink, Dec 2011; U.S. Census Bureau

Such cutbacks in drug utilization for needed medication are known to lead to increased emergency room visits and greater social costs. Indeed, according to the IMS data, emergency room visits are up by 7.4%. Other studies, such as one by the Commonwealth Fund, have shown that medication nonadherence (skipping your prescribed medication) have been linked to increased emergency room visits, hospital stays, and nursing home admissions. The new IMS report illustrates this correlation as it finds seniors cutting back on needed medication.

Some improvements to Part D of Medicare have already been implemented and the IMS data shows a $1.8 billion decrease in out of pocket spending on prescription medication that is likely due to these improvements.  More improvements are on the way as long as the Affordable Care Act is not overturned. However, it’s clear that our seniors continue to suffer negative health consequence because of drug affordability problems.

A recent survey by RxRights.org, a non-profit group advocating for Americans who purchase medication from Canada and other countries, shows that just over half of people who personally import medication through online pharmacies are in Medicare. So even with Part D available to them, they actively seek lower drug prices outside the United States, making it abundantly clear that seniors continue to need the option to personally import prescription medication. It is important that they do so safely, using pharmacies approved by third-party verification programs such as PharmacyChecker.com.

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Generic Use Increase Means Spending Decrease for Consumers; But No U.S. Drug Price Relief on Brand Name Drugs in Sight

A new study published this month finally offers positive news about prescription drugs. Findings from The Use of Medicines in the United States: Review of 2010, by the IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics, show that 78% of all prescription orders filled are for generic drugs, up from 75% in 2009. Aside from Lipitor, which comes in at number 12, the top 21 most widely used drugs, recorded by filled prescription, are all generic. This is good news because it means that even as brand name prices continue to rise, consumers can still save money on generics.

Consumers need not look past our borders for low priced generic medication since the U.S. usually has the lowest prices. You can find U.S. generic drug prices by comparing prices on www.pharmacychecker.com.

Despite the good news about generic drug utilization, uninsured Americans are too often deprived of access to affordable brand name drugs in the United States where there is no generic alternative. The problem is getting worse, as evidenced by brand name drug price increases of 8.3.% last year and rising numbers of Americans not taking their medication due to cost. Indeed, this is the reason millions of Americans are seeking affordable medication from outside the U.S.

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