Drug costs force over 50s to skip medication

Wednesday 24th October, 2012

A fifth (21%) of Australians aged 50 to 64 with financial strain from the cost of prescription medicines are skipping doses to temper mounting costs, a new report reveals. This compares to 12% of those aged 65 plus.

These findings, from a National Seniors survey of 3,188 people aged 50 plus, will be presented at a Medicines Australia conference in Sydney today.

National Seniors chief executive, Michael O’Neill, said the extent to which the baby boomers are doing without could see access to affordable medication become an election issue.

“Previous National Seniors research shows that rising living costs impact mostly on the over 70s who, without the benefit of superannuation, survive on small fixed incomes.”

“However, these findings suggest that when it comes to prescription medicines it’s the 50 to 64 year olds who are struggling,” said O’Neill.

“The findings confirm the vital role social security cards - such as the Commonwealth Seniors Health Card and the Pensioner Concession Card - play in ensuring affordable medicines for the over 65s,” he said.

“The story would be very different without the government concessions”.

“With over half those surveyed saying that higher drug costs would influence their vote, moves to curtail the PBS could become an election issue,” warned O’Neill.

The survey reveals around a third of 50 to 64 year olds have felt financial strain due to prescription costs in the past five years.

“Older Australians are skipping pills or taking smaller doses to help their dollar go further. Even greater proportions are looking for cheaper alternatives, while others just aren’t filling their prescriptions at all,” said O’Neill.

Key findings include:

  • 30% of those aged 50-64 report financial strain in the past five years due to prescription medicines - this compares to only 13% for those aged 75 plus;
  • 21% of those aged 50 to 64 who face financial strain are “rationing” their pills because of the cost - this compares to 12% of those aged 65 plus;
  • 41% of those aged 50 to 64 who face financial strain have sought cheaper alternatives - this compares to 33% aged 65 plus;
  • 18% of those aged 50 to 64 who face financial strain have not filled a prescription - this compares to 6% of those aged 65 plus;
  • 55% say that higher drug costs (as a result of a loss of government subsidies) will influence their vote.

The report’s authors are Dr. Tim Adair, Lea Ortega and Dr. Jeromey Temple. Download the full report.

Michael O’Neill is available for comment

Media contact: Sarah Saunders 0409 055 156