In an ominous sign for drug makers, the number of prescriptions dispensed by pharmacies in the U.S. is growing at its worst rate in at least a decade as consumers are squeezed by both a troubled economy and the growing burden of out-of-pocket health-care costs.According to the WSJ Blog, sales volume is expected to be down, and a drug retailing analyst at Lehman Brothers told them, “I don’t think you would have seen it this bad ever.”
Ever. That's a pretty strong word, and it indicates just how bad conditions are for average Americans when they have to resort to cutting back on needed medicines.
An April poll from the Kaiser foundation (online here) found that 23% of patients didn’t fill a prescription in the last year because of cost, up from 20% in 2005; 19% split pills or skipped doses, up from 16% in 2005.And it's not just prescriptions people are cutting back on. According to Kaiser:
More than four in ten (42 percent) say that in the past year, they or a family member have done at least one of the following because of the cost: postponed getting needed health care (29 percent), skipped a recommended test or treatment (24 percent), not filled a prescription (23 percent), cut pills in half or skipped doses of a medicine (19 percent), or had problems getting mental health care (8 percent). Among those who report taking one of these actions, two-thirds (66 percent) say their medical condition got worse as a result. [emphasis mine]That's not surprising when you consider that people are cutting back on drugs for chronic conditions, such as high blood pressure, which increases a person's risk of having a heart attack or stroke.
One in four people now cite paying for health care as a serious problem, 47 million Americans are uninsured and another 25 million are underinsured. There's little argument that the next president needs to tackle health care reform, but what that reform accomplishes and how many people it helps depends on who gets elected. Or, as this blogger puts it:
The difference between the elephant and the donkey can perhaps be best summarized in two slogans.One hundred billion to ensure people get the health care they need? That's a deal compared to the $10 billion we spend every month in Iraq and the $300 billion the government plans on lending to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac at below market rates.
For McCain, it might be “More expensive, less coverage.”
For Obama “Coverage just like I have, for only a hundred billion.”