One in 10 seniors skip costly medication

Aug. 3, 2011 at 1:43 AM

BOSTON, Aug. 3 (UPI) -- About 10 percent of U.S. Medicare patients -- including cancer survivors -- do not take their medication because it is too expensive, Harvard researchers found.

Dr. Larissa Nekhlyudov and colleagues from Harvard Medical School show cost-related medication non-adherence -- skipping pills to make the medicine last longer, and not filling in a prescription because it is too expensive -- is common among seniors.

The researchers analyzed data from the 2005 Medicare Current Beneficiary Survey and Medicare claims.

Nekhlyudov and the research team found no differences in the rate of cost-related non-adherence between cancer survivors and those without cancer.

Six percent of cancer survivors and 9 percent of those without cancer said they spent less on basic needs -- such as food and heat -- so they could afford medicines. More than half used other cost-saving measures, including taking generic medications, requesting free samples and comparing pharmacy prices before buying drugs, Nekhlyudov says.

"As the number of cancer survivors continues to increase and get older, the findings of our study enhance our understanding of the potential barriers to effective treatment of their non-cancer co-morbidities," Nekhlyudov says.

The findings are published in the Journal of Cancer Survivorship.

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