While there’s plenty of evidence and feedback on how consumers feel about the price of drugs, there has been less detail made public about how physicians view these soaring costs and what they consider their role in the supply chain to be. However, a recent OptimizeRX survey that polled more than 600 providers found drug costs to be top of mind for doctors in the same way they are for consumers.
OptimizeRX is a digital health company that strives to connect pharma companies with patients and providers. Its goal is to foster communication between these groups and to help with the affordability and adherence of drugs for patients.
In fact, the company has even rolled out a unique panel to improve methods of communication between pharma companies and physicians at the point-of-care. It was through that panel, a forum named OptimizeMDs, that physicians received the survey and answered its questions.
One of the least surprising findings from the OptimizeRX survey was that most patients will have a conversation with their doctor about the cost of prescribed drugs. We already know that studies have found lifesaving drugs to be outpacing U.S. inflation rates and that manufacturers like Pfizer are routinely raising the prices on drugs, so it only makes sense that patients would have questions about affordability.
But the survey dug deeper, particularly into the mindset physicians have around drugs and their related costs, yielding some interesting data.
According to the survey, 86% of physicians are comfortable discussing health care costs with patients. We think that’s a good thing that physicians are willing to take the time to really speak to their patients and listen to their valid concerns about costs.
Further, 90% of those physicians feel like they indeed have a role to play in discussing healthcare costs with their patients. And 73% cite the patient’s responsibility to pay for the prescription as an important factor when deciding which drug to prescribe. Again, these are good points that indicate physicians understand the bind that patients are in when it comes to paying for expensive prescription drugs.
Unfortunately, there were some insights gleaned that illustrated how physicians could be doing more for patients, particularly when it comes to filling prescriptions.
Only 5% of surveyed doctors “always” track a prescription that goes unfilled, while less than 20% will “usually” track them. To put that into perspective, that means that about 75% of doctors have no way to know if a patient is actually filling their prescriptions. And that’s a problem.
When asked why they feel a patient may not fill a prescription, the most popular answer was the high cost of drugs, far outranking the impact of side effects, a patient’s desire not to take pills, and patients already taking too many pills.
Health economist, advisor and industry influencer Jane Sarasohn-Kahn—who partnered with OptimizeRX on the study—said failure to adhere to medication could cost the U.S. health system as much as $528 billion. Why? Because of potential after-effects, like new or ongoing illnesses and deaths from what she calls “non-optimized medication therapy.”
By neglecting to follow their doctor’s orders, patients are putting their own lives at stake. But until there’s action that makes drugs more affordable, the likelihood of patients continuing to gamble on their own well-being remains high.
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