HealthLawProf Blog

Editor: Katharine Van Tassel
Concordia University School of Law

Thursday, April 3, 2008

High Cost of Prescription Drugs

USAToday has an article concerning the rapidly rising costs of prescription drugs.  Julie Appleby reports,

People with health insurance are having more trouble paying for prescription drugs as higher out-of-pocket costs for medications and a slowing economy strain family budgets, according to surveys and health care analysts.

The Virginia-based National Patient Advocate Foundation, which helps people struggling to pay medical bills, found that 31% of the 44,729 people it aided last year cited drug co-payments — the patient's portion of the drug's cost — as their top medical-debt problem.

"Incomes aren't going up, but co-payments are," says Gary Claxton of the Kaiser Family Foundation, which studies health policy. In some cases, the patient's share of drug costs is no longer a flat dollar amount, but a proportion that can range from 20% to 70%.  "Some families that have to deal with chronic or critical illness are not in a position to maintain that," says Nancy Davenport-Ennis, who heads the patient foundation.

Among evidence of increasing problems:

•13% of insured Americans report paying for drugs is a serious problem, says a recent poll by USA TODAY, the Kaiser Family Foundation and Harvard School of Public Health. That's up from 9% in a foundation survey in 2000. The latest poll of 1,695 adults had a margin of error of +/-3 percentage points.

•The 31% reporting drug payments as their top medical-debt problem to the patient foundation rose from 26% of people in 2006 and 17% in 2005. . . .

In the Kaiser survey of 68 million workers with job-based prescription-drug benefits, about 7% had coverage requiring special payments for a few costly types of drugs, including some treatments for cancer and multiple sclerosis. For those drugs, the average 2007 cost was $71 per prescription, up 20% from 2004. . . .

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