Recycling Expensive Medication: Why Not?

Jay M. Pomerantz, MD


Medscape General Medicine. 2004;6(2):4 

In This Article

Need for Medicine Recycling

The high cost of medicines (both to consumers and third parties) is a problem that seems to be getting worse rather than better. The new Medicare prescription benefit program does not address the problem of acquisition price, since it prohibits the federal government from directly negotiating with the pharmaceutical manufacturers. In addition, as J. D. Kleinke, a medical economist and author, pointed out: "Every time Medicare expands a benefit, patients come out of the woodwork."[6] Thus, with little or no pressure on the purchase price and more affordability (at least for seniors), the overall national expenditure devoted to medication will continue to rise. Furthermore most of the population is not covered by Medicare.

Many patients, as illustrated by a study[7] of 1.3 million adults with disabilities, do not take their medications as prescribed because of cost; as a result, more than half reported subsequent health problems. Severe disability, poor health, low income, lack of insurance, and a high number of prescriptions increase the odds of cost-related noncompliance. No doubt, the above is but the tip of an iceberg; many Americans are not able to afford medication vital to their health and well-being. They either completely do without, skip doses, or fail to refill medication prescribed for chronic medical conditions -- all because of the perceived high cost of medicines.