Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Consumer Reports Poll: 66% of Americans Blindsided by Cost of Drugs; Many Not Taking Needed Medications

/PRNewswire/ -- Sticker shock is taking a toll on Americans when they fill their prescriptions: 66% of those polled by Consumer Reports said they found out the cost of a drug when they picked it up at the pharmacy counter, while just 4% said they had a conversation with their doctor about the cost of a drug. And 28% of Americans told Consumer Reports they'd taken potentially dangerous actions to save money, such as not filling prescriptions, skipping dosages, and cutting pills in half without the approval of their doctor.

Cutting Corners, Not Complying With Prescriptions

"We were surprised by the extent to which consumers are cutting corners and the risks they're taking as a result of belt-tightening. Most importantly, patients need to talk to their doctors about the cost of drugs and let them know when they have difficulty paying for prescriptions," said Dr. John Santa, director of the Consumer Reports Health Ratings Center. In a separate poll of Hispanic consumers, Consumer Reports found that half of Hispanic Americans are not following through on their doctors' prescriptions and nearly 3 in 10 had decided against filling a script for cost reasons.

New Magazine Identifies Proven, Cost-Effective Alternatives

The poll is being released in conjunction with Consumer Reports Best Drugs For Less, a 60-page magazine that rates more than 200 prescription drugs and over-the-counter medicines for more than 20 conditions including heart disease, asthma, diabetes, and depression. Best Drugs for Less can be purchased by visiting www.ConsumerReportsHealth.org, where the ratings can be accessed for free. The ratings are part of a larger initiative by the newly launched Consumer Reports Health Ratings Center to provide consumers with health ratings based on independent and unbiased review of the best scientific evidence available.

"By every measure, and certainly through our extensive polling, it is clear that our long term economic crisis will only be solved by also fixing our nation's health-care system," said Consumers Union President Jim Guest. According to Guest, Consumers Union has been a strong advocate of increased federal funding for comparative effectiveness -- the task of comparing different options for treating a medical condition -- which received $1.1 billion in stimulus funding and is being looked at by Congress for additional funding. "Comparative effectiveness research helps patients and doctors make better choices, and will help improve our broken health-care system," said Guest.

Misgivings About Generics

When generic versions of a brand name drug are available, they are as safe and effective as the original. For brand name drugs, where a generic version is not available, in many cases doctors or pharmacists can substitute the generic version of an older drug with equivalent effectiveness (and often a longer safety record).

-- Nearly half of Americans polled (47%) had reservations or
misconceptions about taking generic drugs.
-- Forty-six percent of Americans polled by Consumer Reports said their
physician never or sometimes recommended generics.
-- Accurate information about generics is not reaching the consumers who
could benefit the most, such as those spending more than $50/month on
prescription drugs (52%).
-- In a separate Consumer Reports poll of Hispanic consumers, 43%
expressed misgivings about generics, saying they sometimes or never
work.

Americans Heeding Direct-to-Consumer Drug Advertising

"The pharmaceutical industry undermines generic drugs very effectively through advertising and free samples of brand-name drugs, while using more subtle tactics to tell patients and doctors that generics are something to be afraid of," said Dr. Santa.

-- One fifth of people who regularly take a prescription medication have
requested a drug from their doctor that they had seen in a drug ad and
the majority (67%) said their doctor wrote the prescription.
-- Eighty percent of the same group said they had received free drug
samples from their doctors.

Americans Perceive Undue Influence of Pharmaceutical Industry

-- Consumers perceive the undue influence of pharmaceutical companies on
their doctors. Those practices raising the greatest concern among
consumers were rewarding doctors who write a lot of prescriptions
(82%); receiving fully paid trips (77%) or gifts worth more than $50
(76%); and paying for doctors' attendance at meetings (67%).

Washington, D. C., Campaign For Comparative Effectiveness

To underscore the point that some pills work better than others -- and hence the need for rigorous comparisons -- Consumer Reports is staging a display at Union Station in Washington, D.C., from Tuesday, March 17th to Thursday, March 19th. The display at the station's main hall will be easy to spot: Just look for the giant pills running on treadmills. Copies of Consumer Reports Best Drugs For Less will be distributed at Union Station, in addition to four key metro stops, as part of a weeklong Washington D.C. campaign to raise awareness about comparative effectiveness.

Poll Methodology

The Consumer Reports National Research Center conducted a telephone survey of a nationally representative probability sample of telephone households. A total of 2,004 interviews were completed among adults ages 18+ and interviewing took place January 15-19, 2009. The margin of error is +/-3.4% points at a 95% confidence level.

The material above is intended for legitimate news entities only; it may not be used for commercial or promotional purposes. Consumer Reports(R) is published by Consumers Union, an expert, independent nonprofit organization whose mission is to work for a fair, just, and safe marketplace for all consumers and to empower consumers to protect themselves. To achieve this mission, we test, inform, and protect. To maintain our independence and impartiality, Consumers Union accepts no outside advertising, no free test samples, and has no agenda other than the interests of consumers. Consumers Union supports itself through the sale of our information products and services, individual contributions, and a few noncommercial grants.

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