Reports From the Field: Drug formularies increase risks for older patients

Drug switching due to drug plan formulary restrictions can have a negative impact on the health of older Americans, according to a survey by Project Patient Care, a nonprofit organization that collects and interprets data to improve patient care.

The survey found that last year alone, 12% of all adults ages 50 and older were prescribed or switched to a less expensive drug due to formulary restrictions.

About 13% of those surveyed report that the new drug was ineffective in treating their condition, and 22% of patients say they experienced side effects from the new medication. More than half reported making extra phone calls or visits to their health care provider or the pharmacy.

"It’s always easy to talk about the financial impact that drug switching has on patients, but the health impact has been largely overlooks until now. As provider and policy-makers construct ways to improve the health care system, they should consider the health impact over and above the economic costs. And above all, the decision about what medication is best should be left to the health care provider and the patient," says David Chess, MD, founder, chairman, and president of Project Patient Care.

More details on the study are available at