The 38-year-old man entered the hospital with a big toe oozing pus and a blood sugar that was three times the normal level. After treating a bone infection and amputating his toe, his doctors and nurses taught him how to manage his diabetes, including what foods to eat. The man told them that the infection was a wake-up call and vowed to follow a diabetic diet and take his medicine.
Two years later, he appeared in my clinic, clutching a bottle of red Gatorade. He had been sleeping on his brother’s couch and was only taking two of the five medications he had been prescribed. He told me not to bother renewing the other three, since he couldn’t afford the $20 co-pay for them at the charity pharmacy. The other two he could get at a local pharmacy that offered them for free, as part of a promotion to attract customers. For food, he ate whatever he could get, mostly at local soup kitchens. He said he wanted to eat the right foods and take all of his prescribed medicines, but he couldn’t find work and had no money. Seeking help from relatives wasn’t an option.
Nearly one in three U.S. adults with a chronic disease has problems paying for food, medicine, or both.
“They got money problems of their own,” he said.
According to an article this month in the American Journal of Medicine, my patient’s predicament is common: nearly one in three U.S. adults with a chronic disease has problems paying for food, medicine, or both. Researchers at Harvard and the University of California at San Francisco studied data from the 2011 U.S. Centers for Disease Control’s National Health Interview Survey.
Of the 10,000 adults who reported that they had a chronic disease such as diabetes, asthma, arthritis, high blood pressure, stroke, a mental health problem, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, nearly one in five said they said they had problems affording food during the past 30 days, a condition called “food insecurity.” Nearly one in four said they had skipped medication dosages because of cost. More than one in ten said they had problems paying for both food and medication.