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1 in 5 Try to Spend Less on Prescription Drugs, Says CDC Skip to content

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Many Look for Ways to Spend Less on Prescription Drugs

Strategies include skipping doses and asking doctors for cheaper medication, says CDC

Doctor and patient discuss prescription medication

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En español | With the cost of prescription drugs skyrocketing, at least 20 percent of Americans are making some effort to pay less, according to a new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) survey.

The survey, which focused on adults ages 18 to 64 who’d been prescribed medication in the preceding year, found that 1 in 5 people had either asked their doctor for lower-cost medication, did not take their medication as prescribed, or used alternative therapies to reduce their drug costs.

People who were uninsured were far more likely to use such strategies than those with private insurance or Medicaid: Nearly 40 percent of uninsured adults reported having asked their doctors about less expensive drug options, compared to 18 percent with private health insurance and 15 percent of those covered by Medicaid. And women (22 percent) were more likely than men (16.4 percent) to ask their doctors about cheaper medications.


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Many said they didn’t take their meds as prescribed — they either skipped doses, took less medication or delayed getting a prescription refilled — in order to save money. Again, those without health insurance were more likely to try to stretch their medication dollars: One-third of these adults reported doing so, compared with only 10 percent of all adults surveyed.

About 70 percent of prescriptions have an out-of-pocket cost. That cost is on average $6 for generic prescription drugs and $30 for brand-name prescription drugs, according to the CDC.

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