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Needing a new drug

Graham’s Gross Anatomy is a great medical blog, offering lots of pointers to topics both biological and social. Today he links to some interesting research on the costs of prescriptions that finds that patients underuse expensive drugs and rarely talk with their physicians about the costs of drugs. Graham notes, “I don’t care how good the drugs are that come to market, how effective they are at lowering cholesterol or blood pressure or controlling diabetes; if people can’t afford them, they’re absolutely, 100% worthless.”

That doctors don’t speak to their patients about the costs of prescriptions is something I talk about in my medical sociology class. Docs tend to relate better to patients whom they perceive to be more like them, which puts disadvantaged patients in a sort of double-bind: Not only are they particularly in need of information on cost-saving drug options, they’re less likely to get that information, and when they do get it, they still face relatively high obstacles in navigating the health care bureaucracy. The bottom line is that access to resources shapes the likelihood of getting sick, the likelihood of getting care, and the likelihood of utilizing care in an effective way.