June 4, 2009

Economy pushes drug costs out of reach

Many Americans say they cannot afford critical prescription drugs, even with government help, low-cost generics and chain-store discounting.

I take the ones I can afford and then trust in the Lord, Robert Brown, 60, who has heart disease and emphysema, tells The New York Times at a drugstore in Rocky Mount, N.C.

National surveys find that as many as a third of U.S. respondents say they don't fill prescriptions doctors give them because of cost, up from about a fourth three years ago, the newspaper says.

Many customers at an Almand's Drug Store in the struggling Oakwood neighborhood -- particularly those too well off for Medicaid government assistance but unable to afford health insurance -- simply pick and choose among risks, they say.

They weigh not taking maintenance medications against more immediate needs like shelter and food, the newspaper says.

James Crawford, recovering from his third heart attack,says he needs to know prices before filling prescriptions for high blood pressure, angina, cholesterol and acid reflux. After learning his co-payments under Medicare would range from $8.25 to $18.49 for a one-month supply, Crawford, 61, tells the pharmacist he can afford only the heart, blood pressure and acid reflux pills.