With the economic downturn, more Americans are unable to afford the prescription medications they need to manage life-threatening conditions, The New York Times reported.
Even with the Medicare drug benefit, the wide availability of low-cost generics and discounting by big chain stores, national surveys consistently show that as many as a third of respondents say they're not filling prescriptions because of cost. That's up from about a quarter of respondents three years ago.
The problem is common in hard-hit communities like Rocky Mount, N.C., where unemployment has doubled to 14 percent in a year.
Dr. John T. Avent, a physician at a low-income clinic, told The Times that at least 80 percent of his patients aren't taking prescribed medicines for conditions such as high blood pressure or diabetes.
"They'll say, 'Well, Doc, I just couldn't afford it; I've been out of it for a month now,'" Avent said. "By that time, of course, their blood pressure is highly elevated and their hemoglobin A1C is two to three times what it should be."