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Steep Co-Pays May Cause Some to Abandon Prescriptions
Date:11/16/2010

By Serena Gordon
HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, Nov. 15 (HealthDay News) -- In these tough economic times, even people with health insurance are leaving prescription medications at the pharmacy because of high co-payments.

This costs the pharmacy between $5 and $10 in processing per prescription, and across the United States that adds up to about $500 million in additional health care costs annually, according to Dr. William Shrank, an assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and lead author of a new study.

"A little over 3 percent of prescriptions that are delivered to the pharmacy aren't getting picked up," said Shrank. "And, in more than half of those cases, the prescription wasn't refilled anywhere else during the next six months."

Results of the study are published in the Nov. 16 issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine.

Shrank and his colleagues reviewed data on the prescriptions bottled for insured patients of CVS Caremark, a pharmacy benefits manager and national retail pharmacy chain. CVS Caremark funded the study.

The study period ran from July 1, 2008 through Sept. 30, 2008. More than 10.3 million prescriptions were filled for 5.2 million patients. The patients' average age was 47 years, and 60 percent were female, according to the study. The average family income in their neighborhoods was $61,762.

Of the more than 10 million prescriptions, 3.27 percent were abandoned.

Cost appeared to be the biggest driver in whether or not someone would leave a prescription, according to the study.

If a co-pay was $50 or over, people were 4.5 times more likely to abandon the prescription, Shrank said, adding that it's "imperative to talk to your doctor and pharmacist to try to identify less expensive options, rather than abandoning an expensive medication and going without."

Drugs with a co-pay of less than $10 were abandoned just 1.4 percent of the ti
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