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Government News
Cuts in Drug Benefits Affect Long-Term Health
Psychiatric News
Volume 39 Number 14 page 10-10

Older adults who cut back on their prescription drugs because of cost were 76 percent more likely to manifest a significant decline in their overall health, according to a prospective study that followed nearly 8,000 individuals over three years.

The study team, composed of researchers from the University of Michigan (UM) and the VA Ann Arbor Healthcare System, used nationally representative survey data from the UM Institute for Social Research, according to a press release announcing the results.

The study, which was funded by the National Institute on Aging, appears in the July Medical Care.

The results suggest the potential long-term danger of the effects of cuts to programs like the Medically Needy Program, which was eliminated in Oregon in January 2003 (see story at right).

About 61 percent of the respondents to a survey of former beneficiaries of the Medically Needy Program said that they had skipped doses of medication, and 64 percent reported that they had refrained from filling a prescription because of cost.

Authors of the UM-VA study said that the difference in health outcomes between the group who cut back on medication and the group who did not" held true even after factors such as age, race, income, education, smoking, alcohol use, obesity, and coexisting health problems were taken into account."

In the press release, Michele Heisler, M.D., M.P.H., one of the VA researchers, urged patients to discuss payment problems with their doctors and to enlist their support in enrolling in "national, state, and local programs" and using generic drugs.

Eighty-two percent of the respondents to the survey of those who lost prescription drug coverage when the Medically Needy Program was eliminated, however, reported that they could not get all the medications they needed from the patient-assistance programs operated by pharmaceutical programs.▪

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