Study finds access to prescription drugs holds steady

The proportion of Americans who reported problems affording prescription drugs has stayed level between 2007 and 2010, according to a new study from the Center for Studying Health System Change.

“While remaining stable overall, access to prescription drugs improved for working age, uninsured people, likely reflecting a decline in visits to healthcare providers, as well as changes in the composition of the uninsured population,” the study said. Meanwhile, the uninsured, poor and those in poor health or with multiple chronic conditions continued to have the most unmet prescription needs. About 48% of uninsured people in fair or poor health went without a prescription drug because of cost concerns in 2020, which the study noted was nearly double the rate of insured people with the same reported health status.

More than 1-in-8 Americans went without a prescribed drug in 2010, a year when two-thirds of all Americans—and about 90% of seniors—reported taking at least one prescription drug in the past year.

The study's authors noted that it is “somewhat surprising” that drug affordability problems in the U.S. did not rise during a three-year period when the uninsured population increased to 51.7 million in 2010, up from 42.8 million in 2007.

“The level trend in affordability problems may be a byproduct of reductions in medical care in response to the weak economy—fewer physician visits may have led to fewer prescriptions being written,” the authors concluded. “At the same time, loss of patent protection for several major branded drugs and additional shifts toward generic use, as well as lower generic prices, also likely made some prescriptions more affordable for patients.”



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