Strategies used by adults to reduce their prescription drug costs: United States, 2013

NCHS Data Brief. 2015 Jan;(184):1-8.


Among U.S. adults aged 18-64, strategies for reducing prescription drug costs were more commonly practiced by those who were uninsured than those who had public or private coverage. Lack of health insurance coverage and poverty are recognized risk factors for not taking medication as prescribed due to cost. This cost-saving strategy may result in poorer health status and increased emergency room use and hospitalizations, compared with adults who follow their recommended pharmacotherapy. It is unknown whether adverse health outcomes and higher health care costs are also associated with the cost-reduction strategies of alternative therapy use or obtaining prescription drugs from abroad. Among adults aged 65 and over, those covered by both Medicare and Medicaid were more likely to have not taken their medication as prescribed to save money, but were less likely to have asked their doctor for a lower-cost prescription, than those who had private insurance coverage. Differences in cost-saving strategies by insurance coverage may be interrelated with socioeconomic and other patient characteristics. Belief that the recommended pharmacotherapy is needed, and an understanding of the recommended treatment, have been found to be lower among older adults who are economically vulnerable, compared with those with higher income. Income was also associated with the use of cost-reduction strategies. Among adults aged 65 and over, those living with incomes at 139%-400% FPL were more likely than adults living in lower or higher income thresholds to have asked their provider for a lower-cost prescription to save money. These patterns in the estimates by insurance status and poverty level are similar to those previously reported using the 2011 NHIS data.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Distribution
  • Aged
  • Cost Control
  • Fees, Pharmaceutical*
  • Female
  • Health Services Accessibility
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Medication Adherence / statistics & numerical data*
  • Middle Aged
  • Poverty / statistics & numerical data*
  • Prescription Drugs / economics*
  • United States
  • Young Adult


  • Prescription Drugs