Survey Finds Patients Wary of Rx Switches--October 2008


A new survey shows that patients want more information and their doctors' approval before being asked to exchange one prescription for another.

A survey by the National Consumers League (NCL) has found that 70% of prescription drug users would be very concerned if a drug they were prescribed was switched to another medication designed to treat the same condition without the knowledge of their physician. Even with the doctor’s knowledge, 1 respondent in 5 is concerned about the practice.

“Consumers are justifiably concerned about the practice of therapeutic substitution, how it’s done, and who’s involved,” said NCL Executive Director Sally Greenberg. “For some conditions and treatments, it may make good financial or medical sense to swap out one prescription for another. But, as consumers reported in our survey, it’s essential for them to be part of the process, to know their doctor is aware and supportive of the switch, and to feel confident that their health and treatment—not financial incentives—are top priority.”

Among other findings, NCL reports that only 19% of survey respondents would consider switching to a different medication meant to treat the same disease if their insurance company sent a letter recommending the change; receiving such a letter would inspire 71% of them to have a conversation with their doctor about a less expensive drug, however.

The online survey of 1387 adults aged 18 and older who filled a prescription in the last year was conducted by Harris Interactive between August 25 and September 2; the sample included 352 patients currently taking a statin medication.

NCL has launched a public education campaign to help patients better understand the practice of therapeutic substitution. Fact sheets and other resources for patients, as well as complete survey results, are available at


For other articles in this issue, see:

Kids’ OTC Cough, Cold Meds to Get New Labels

Rogue Pharmacy Crackdown Expected to Become Law

PDPs for Low-Income Beneficiaries Decreasing in ’09

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