Survey: Consumers Worried about Prescription Drug Costs

Survey participants said their drug costs have gone up and almost a third had trouble paying for food and housing because of high drug costs.

Americans are increasingly concerned that the costs of prescription drugs could lead to bankruptcy or debt. Some had difficulty paying for food or housing in the last year because of the high costs of drugs, and more than half are turning to mail-order and Internet pharmacies for lower cost options, according to a recent survey by HealthCare.com, an online healthcare company.

HealthCare.com polled 1,002 U.S. adults who have taken prescription drugs to assess their experiences with cost and coverage, and their views of fast-emerging mail-order pharmacies. They found that more than four in 10 (44%) of the respondents were concerned about prescription drug costs. Among those with Medicare Part D coverage, 49% were concerned about costs.

Additionally, three in 10 (33%) said their costs have risen for prescription drugs, and 29% said they had difficulty paying for food and housing because of these therapies. Among Medicare D beneficiaries, 34% said they have trouble paying for food and housing.

The purpose of the survey was to try to find out what people think about mail order pharmacies and whether use them, Apral Jones, director of pharmacy of HealthCare.com, told Formulary Watch.

One of the biggest takeaways from the survey is that 61% of mail-order shoppers say mail-order pharmacies help them adhere to their medication, and 33% who have used prescription medications think mail-order pharmacies will help to reduce prices for prescriptions.

Among those who haven’t used a mail-order pharmacy, 56% say it’s because they like their current pharmacy, and 20% say they don’t trust mail-order pharmacies. 15% say they didn’t know they exist. The concern regarding trusting mail order pharmacies is understandable,” says Jones said.

But in an interview she said mail-order pharmacy can save patients money and help with adherence. “We are able to allow adherence packaging, such as daily bubble packs, to make sure patients are taking the medications the way they should. Also, patients are receiving a 90-day supply versus a 30-day supply,” Jones said. “That is very beneficial to all individuals, but especially individuals on Medicare, who are on a fixed income, to save on copays.”

Mail-order pharmacies have grown from increasing from 21% of retail pharmacy sales in 2007 to 37% in 2017, according to the National Association of Chain Drug Stores, Chain Member Fact Book 2018–2019. Mail order pharmacy is expected to grow at a CAGR of 16.5% from 2020 to 2027, according to The Insight Partners. This is being driven by increasing incidence of chronic diseases, increasing adoption of mail-order pharmacy, an aging population, and convenience over traditional pharmacies.

But while 45% of those surveyed who have used mail-order pharmacies believe they are well regulated to ensure the safety of medications, many of these consumers many not realize the risks associated with using online pharmacies.

Counterfeit drugs continue to be an issue in the United States, and they often make their way into the U.S. supply chain through online pharmacies.

Related: Counterfeit Drugs Remain a Significant Challenge

“Consumers may not know where drugs are coming from through an online pharmacy but there are some pointers for what they should be looking for,” Jones said. “There should be a physical address and phone number in the United States listed. Consumers also want to make sure that the online pharmacy is licensed in the state that they live in as well. And many pharmacies, but not all, will have a way to get ahold of the pharmacist for emergencies.”