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The Horrifying Number of Americans Who Can’t Afford Their Prescription Drugs

Michael Rainey

An estimated 58 million Americans – nearly 23% of the population – couldn’t afford a drug they needed at some point in the last 12 months, according to a new Gallup-West Health poll published Tuesday. That number has risen significantly in recent months, with a 4 percentage-point increase just since January.

The September survey of 1,099 people also found that most Americans agree that drug prices are too high, with 69% of respondents saying the cost of prescription drugs is "usually much higher" than it should be.

High prices aren’t restricted to drugs, and the consequences of rising costs can be deadly. About 34 million Americans – more than 13% of the adult population – say they know of a family member or friend who died after they skipped medical treatment due to their inability to pay for it.

“The substantial number of Americans who know someone who has died after not receiving treatment because of their inability to pay for it, coupled with the rise in the percentage who have not had enough money to pay for their prescriptions, underscores the urgency of the U.S. healthcare cost crisis,” Gallup’s Dan Witters wrote Tuesday. “These realities starkly highlight the significant practical implications of drug prices on U.S. residents, as well as the effects of healthcare policy action -- or inaction.”

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