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Many who cut back on Rx drugs to cut costs don't tell doctors

ANN ARBOR, Mich. Millions of Americans struggle every day to pay for their prescription medicines, often cutting back on how often they buy or take some of their drugs to save money. But a new study suggests that many of the sickest of these patients don't tell their doctors what they're doing -- even though skimping on certain drugs could harm their health and their physicians could help them.

The study's authors, from the Veterans Affairs Health Services Research Program, the University of Michigan and Stanford University, say their findings reinforce how critical it is for doctors and nurses to take the initiative in asking patients if they're having trouble paying for their drugs, and educating them about which ones are most necessary to protect their health. The researchers found that most patients who did speak up got help through free samples, generic drugs or information about assistance programs.

The study, published in the Sept. 13 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine, finds that two-thirds of 660 chronically ill patients who had cut back on their prescription drugs because of trouble paying for them didn't tell their doctors before they did it. And even after they had started skimping, 35 percent never told their doctors.

All the patients surveyed had at least one serious medical problem, such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, lung disease, osteoporosis or ulcers. And the vast majority of patients were on three or more prescription drugs when they started skipping doses or refills to save money.

"These chronically ill adults are the patients who most need their medications. Yet their doctors don't know that they aren't taking them because of cost pressures," says lead author John Piette, Ph.D., who holds positions at the VA Ann Arbor Healthcare System and the U-M Medical School. "As drug costs and the number of chronically ill Americans both continue to rise, it's essenti
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Contact: Kara Gavin
kegavin@umich.edu
734-764-2220
University of Michigan Health System
13-Sep-2004


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