Millions of Americans cannot afford the medications they’ve been prescribed. Many skip doses, split pills, trade pills with friends and family, or don’t fill prescriptions at all as a result––with sometimes even fatal consequences. Dr. Stacie Dusetzina, Associate Professor of Health Policy at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine has learned that 1 in 4 people have trouble filling their prescription. According to Dusetzina, people with chronic conditions, like cancer, have a greater risk of running into financial obstacles. One cancer patient is taking a stand against the financial burden of disease.
David Mitchell, a 68-year-old living with multiple myeloma is the founder of Patients for Affordable Drugs. The two drugs that make Mitchell’s rare form of cancer treatable cost $325,000 a year. For Mitchell, the only reason his drugs are affordable are thanks to insurance and the fact that his drugs are infused rather than pills. Mitchell is seemingly luck with his insurance and form of treatment. A study in the Annals of Internal Medicine reveals that up to 30% of prescriptions are never filled, with cost likely a contributing factor.
Some people can’t afford $50 a month for treatment, Dusetzina says, and the price can hinder people from taking the full prescription. Dusetzina believes, splitting up drug doses may be worse than taking none at all. Cutting medication could lead to drug resistance––an outcome potentially worse than taking no drug at all. In particular, Dusetzina says that patients who are rationing insulin are threatening their own lives to a sometimes fatal extent.
And it is not just the illness but also the stress that comes from the price of the drugs that can make someone worse, according to Mitchell. A solution the CDC has begun to work on to combat the pricing out drug dilemma would involve a system where a physician takes a patient’s insurance card and in real time knows the cost of the drug they are about to prescribe. This would be extremely beneficial for financial drug adjustment. According to the CDC, 60% of those who are uninsured have not asked their pharmacist or physician if there are cheaper treatment options––options that could be just as life-saving as the drugs themselves.
- David Mitchell, cancer patient, founder and President, Patients for Affordable Drugs
- Dr. Stacie Dusetzina, Associate Professor of Health Policy, Vanderbilt University