More than 1.1 million Medicare patients could die over the next decade because they can't afford to pay for their prescription medications, according to a new study released by the West Health Policy Center, a nonprofit and nonpartisan policy research group.
If current drug pricing trends continue, it's estimated that cost-related nonadherence to drug therapy will result in the premature deaths of 112,000 beneficiaries a year, making it a leading cause of death in the U.S. – ahead of diabetes, influenza, pneumonia and kidney disease.
Millions more will suffer worsening health conditions and run up medical expenses that will cost Medicare an additional $177.4 billion by 2030, or $18 billion a year for the next 10 years.
For the study, researchers developed a 10-year model representative of the majority of Medicare beneficiaries with chronic conditions. The model allows users to estimate how different levels of price reductions would lower the number of premature deaths and decrease Medicare spending on a sliding scale.
Researchers also modeled what would happen if Medicare was allowed to bring down drug prices for its beneficiaries through direct negotiation with drug companies, as described in H.R. 3, the Elijah E. Cummings Lower Drug Costs Now Act, passed by the U.S. House of Representatives last year.
They found Medicare negotiation could result in 94,000 fewer deaths annually. The model also found that the policy would reduce Medicare spending by $475.9 billion by 2030.