Millions Cutting Corners to Save Money on Heart Medications

More than 2 million people nationwide with heart problems are not taking their medication as prescribed because of cost concerns and are either skipping intervals or taking less than what was prescribed to save money. That means millions of Americans are putting their lives at risk in making this financial choice, and may provide some important context to collection agencies when discussing the financial situations of individuals with unpaid medical debts.

The data was released yesterday by the American Heart Association.

Known in the healthcare industry as medication non-compliance, not taking medication at the dose or interval as prescribed may lead to more expensive healthcare situations later on for patients, such as more doctor’s appointments, more visits to emergency rooms, and patients who are sicker.

“The out-of-pocket cost of medications is a huge issue for millions of high-risk patients with cardiovascular diseases such as heart attacks, stroke, angina and other conditions,” said Dr. Khurram Nasir, the senior author of the study, and also the chief of the division of cardiovascular prevention and wellness and co-director of the Center for Outcomes Research at Houston Methodist DeBakey Heart & Vascular Center in Texas. “When faced with the expenses of taking lifesaving medications as prescribed or not taking them because they are too costly, many choose not to take them.”

Cost-related non-compliance was three times more common with people under the age of 65. Among those under the age of 65, women (1 in 4), individuals from low-income families (1 in 3), and those without health insurance (more than 50%) indicated they have not taken their medication as prescribed.

“While non-compliance has several causes, in recent years the rising share of health care costs paid directly by patients has become a concern,” said Nasir. “We wanted to understand the scope of medication non-compliance due to costs.”

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