Prescription abandonments continue to rise

December 15, 2010

Patients with health insurance are abandoning their prescriptions at higher rates than they did a year ago and far more frequently than they did 5 years ago, according to a recent study.

Patients with health insurance are abandoning their prescriptions at higher rates than they did a year ago and far more frequently than they did 5 years ago, according to a recent study from healthcare data firm Wolters Kluwer Pharma Solutions, Bridgewater, N.J.

From 2006 to 2010, patient abandonment rates at retail pharmacies have soared 83.6%, according to the Wolters Kluwers study.

As the United States entered recession in the third quarter of 2008, rates of prescription abandonment began to rise. "We really started to see a bump in 2009, which continued into 2010," Spiers said.

While prescription abandonment rates stayed the same for generic medications between the first and second quarter of 2010, the abandonment rates for brands rose from 9.4% to 9.6%.

Wolters Kluwer also tracks the abandonment rates by category of medication and found that adrenergic blocking prescriptions had the highest rate-of-abandonment increase from 2008 to 2009. In 2008, approximately 3% of patients abandoned adrenergic blocking medications; in 2009, the rate had risen to approximately 3.9%.

"We have also seen an increase in abandonment of maintenance medications such as those for diabetes and hypertension. Those are the areas that tend to become more concerning, because many of the drugs have demonstrated outcomes to prevent heart attack, stroke, and other conditions that put a greater cost on the healthcare system," Spiers said.

Approximately 4.8% of patients abandoned anti-ulcerant prescriptions in 2009, 4% abandoned diabetes prescriptions, 4.2% abandoned antidepressants, and approximately 3.7% failed to pick up cholesterol reducers.