Uninsured, young adults less likely to take medications as prescribed, CDC study finds

Small percentages of patients have bought drugs from abroad, used alternative therapies

NEW YORK — A desire to save money is driving younger and older adults to request cheaper drugs from their doctors, but it's also driving younger adults not to take their drugs as prescribed, according to a new study.

The study, by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, found that about one-fifth of adults between 18 and 64 years and one-fifth of those 65 years and older were equally likely to request lower-cost drugs, but 12.6% of those ages 18 to 64 years were likely not to take drugs as prescribed, compared with 5.8% of those 65 years and older. Meanwhile, elderly adults with only Medicare coverage were more likely to ask their doctors for lower-cost drugs to save money. Overall, Americans spent $45 million out of pocket on prescription drugs in 2011, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

Lack of insurance — whether Medicaid or private insurance — was also driving medication nonadherence, with 23.1% of uninsured adults not taking their drugs properly, compared with 13.6% of those with Medicaid and 8.7% of those with private insurance.

While a number of factors drive medication nonadherence, the study — conducted by researchers at the CDC's National Center for Health Statistics — sheds light on the prevalence of nonadherence as a cost-cutting strategy, as well as the risks involved, such as higher probability of emergency room visits and hospitalizations.

The study also found that about 2% of adults bought drugs from another country to save money, while 6% of those ages 18 to 64 years used alternative therapies, compared with 2.3% of those ages 65 years and older.

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