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Non-adherence to prescription drugs poses a greater and more costly threat to our health than any of the most common diseases currently plaguing millions of Americans.
The phenomenon currently takes around 125,000 lives and costs the medical community somewhere between $100-289 billion a year. The problem is rather pervasive, with over 50 percent of patients neglecting their prescription schedules and has the potential to get worse. Nearly half of all Americans over the age of 12 use some type of prescription drug, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports.
Patients have a variety of reasons for not strictly following their doctor’s orders, with the high-cost of many prescription medications being the chief complaint.
Research estimates that up to 15 percent of non-adherence is due to the cost. A patients sees a high-stick price and decides they can forgo the medication. Consumers have a legitimate reason with the cost argument, as co-pays for some drugs can run as high as $100 a prescription, Kaiser Family Foundation reports.
The marketplace is difficult to navigate and adds to why consumers shy away from taking their medications.
Obamacare created a system of stratified health plans which, in turn, created drug tiers. These tiers pushed higher price drugs into groups with lower levels of coverage, and forced the majority of consumers into the least expensive drugs in each tier. In the majority of cases, the system also forces consumers to first prove that the generic medications are not effective before moving to more expensive, non-generic forms.
Still, there are some other reasons patients stop taking their medications that are rather finicky. Some 34 percent of patients were likely to stop taking their pills if there was a sudden change in its color, according to a 2014 study out of the Annals of Internal Medicine. While 66 percent were more likely to stop taking their medication after a pill changed shape.
There is not much that President Donald Trump and lawmakers could do to change consumer preferences regarding the shape and size of a medication, but they could address the cost and access problems.
Trump met with executives from the pharmaceutical industry in January at the White House to discuss ways to lower the exponentially increasing drug prices in the US Trump told the executives that “we have to lower drug prices,” increase research and development spending, and massively deregulate the pharmaceutical industry to lower barriers for entry of new drugs to the market.
Democrats are signaling their readiness to work with the president on combating rising drug prices.
The president continued the conversation in early-March with Democratic Reps. Elijah Cummings of Maryland and Peter Welch of Vermont in a private White House meeting. The congressmen were enthusiastic following the meeting, saying Trump was “aware of the problem.” The pair left the president with a bill proposal that would expand the federal government’s capacity to negotiate drug prices.
Democratic Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont has also expressed his willingness to get behind Trump in fighting the pharmaceutical industry. “Let’s work together. Let’s end the absurdity of Americans paying by far the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs,” Sanders told reporters.
The president and congressional leadership attempted to address the problems with the Obamacare system in the American Health Care Act (AHCA), which was pulled just hours before it was slated to go up for a vote on the House floor in March. Trump promises that health care reform is his administration’s first priority, and that tax reform and his other pro-growth policies will take a backseat.
Congress is on its first two-week recess and will not reconvene until April 25. Whatever Trump chooses to do with Obamacare reform likely have to wait until lawmakers return to Washington.