Poor Pay the Most for Prescription Drugs

Independent retailers in Florida's poorest areas charge the highest prices

FRIDAY, Dec.5 (HealthDay News) -- Prescription drugs cost more in poor neighborhoods than in more affluent areas, according to a study of pharmacy prices in the state of Florida, published online in November in Health Services Research.

Walid F. Gellad, M.D., of the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, and colleagues used data on prescription drug prices from the MyFloridarx.com Web site and median ZIP code income data from the 2000 census to establish the price differential for prescription drugs in different areas of the state.

When the researchers compared the prices of a one-month supply of esomeprazole for peptic ulcer disease, fluticasone/salmeterol for asthma, clopidogrel for cardiovascular disease and azithromycin for bacterial infections, they found that the mean prices in the poorest ZIP codes were 9 percent above the state average. This price differential is particularly important to non-elderly uninsured Americans and Medicare beneficiaries without creditable prescription coverage, the authors note.

"The uninsured, despite in many cases having lower disposable income and poorer health, are burdened with high out-of-pocket costs for many services and face higher prices than the insured," Gellad and colleagues write. "While insuring the uninsured is a priority, efforts to reduce disparities in care between socioeconomic groups could be strengthened by ensuring that America's most vulnerable patients are not charged more for essential medications."

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