Seniors Skipping Medication Due To Cost Is A Prescription For At-Risk Health

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By David Brimm

seniorcoupleexercisesmallAlmost 12 million seniors have something in common: they are delaying refilling prescriptions or skipping doses because they cost too much. A Walgreens survey found that 37 percent of Medicare Part D beneficiaries have daily concerns about their prescription drug costs, and 1-in-5 say they are cutting back on prescription use. In healthcare language this means that the seniors are non-compliant with their drug regimens.

The problem becomes more significant when the senior goes to the healthcare provider. Seniors are routinely asked about their medication use and knowing that they might be chastised for not taking their medication properly, they are often less than forthcoming about their medication usage.

By not complying with their home medication regimen and not responding affirmatively about their use, a healthcare provider will order more medications. Of greater concern is that partial medication dosing of multiple medications leads to more complications and drug interactions. By not following a physician’s orders when it comes to prescribed medications, they may be endangering their health. Medication non-compliance is one of the primary reasons that seniors are hospitalized. This non-compliance can be defined by taking either too much or too little of their medications.

pills“While Medicare D was implemented to assist with the cost of medications, many seniors do not understand the concept of formularies. A formulary is the listing of medications that a pharmacy provider keeps in stock for sale. Medicare D plan coverage changes annually and varies by providers. Many expensive and non generic drugs are not included in basic formularies causing seniors to have hundreds of dollars in drug costs monthly,” says Mardy Chizek, RN, FNP, BSN, MBA, AAS and President of Charism Eldercare Services in Westmont, Illinois, who adds that this situation is supported by the survey that revealed that only 15 percent of respondents were able to identify the major components of the Medicare D prescription plans.

Most troubling to Chizek is that the survey found that only half of respondents understood that co-pays for Part D prescriptions can vary by pharmacy; or that discounts can be achieved through preferred pharmacy networks. In addition, almost 30 percent don’t know that they can switch pharmacies at any time, believing incorrectly that it can only be done during Medicare’s Annual Election Period.

Even beyond Medicare D coverage, many pharmaceutical companies will assist seniors with discounts on their medications. Every avenue for drug cost savings should be explored. Speak to the healthcare provider about less expensive alternatives and or samples of medication.

Chizek encourages family members and caregivers to monitor prescription use of loved ones and ask questions to the healthcare team or eldercare experts to look for ways to ensure medication compliance while also advising on ways to lower costs.

– For more information on controlling medication usage and costs, visit Charism Eldercare Services at