Rx Cost Series: Improving Adherence Through Inclusivity


Many people can’t afford the high cost of prescription drugs. Reaching more diverse consumers means offering both inclusive health resources and straightforward cost-saving opportunities. 

When people face high drug costs, adherence drops — especially among those facing other health barriers. To improve outcomes for all, inclusivity and diversity should be foundational to how pharma brands reach and motivate consumers today. 

In the first part of our Rx Cost Series, we explored the impact of educating consumers on cost-saving opportunities. Now we dig into the data to understand how different demographics face challenges in their health journeys — from access to health education and care, to cost barriers to adherence. 

To Improve Access for All, Start with Health Education

Better health information is the first step to ensuring access to better care. When designed to meet diverse needs, health and wellness sites and similar resources offer free and widely available health information that can have an impact on its own at key decision making moments. This content can also empower visitors, giving them actionable knowledge about treatment options they can take to medical professionals.

Health websites reach underserved demographics. Medical professionals are the preferred resource — but not everyone has access to or can afford a doctor. Health websites are the second most popular resource, with 37% of respondents turning to these sites for specific treatment questions. They are especially popular among some demographics — for 47% of unemployed people (vs. 40% of those employed), 43% of Black respondents, and 53% of people with less than high school education.

Offer Credible Health Information to Motivate Consumer Action

When content is built with diversity and inclusivity top of mind, it ensures that the information provided is accessible — and actionable. More diverse audiences find the information they need on sites like Healthline.com, all for free, making it easier to take the next step and ultimately improving access to care.

As Faye McCray, Head of Health Equity and Social Impact, Healthline Media, explained,


To ensure accessibility and help people make the best decisions for them, providing credible and digestible information is critical. But not everyone defines credibility the same way.

  • Gender: Women, more so than men, find drug-related content more accurate when it has been clinically reviewed. 

  • Race/Ethnicity: Clinical reviews are valued more among Asians and Hispanics/Latinos compared to Whites and Blacks.

  • Age: Younger respondents, age 18-34, are likelier than older respondents to appreciate when drug information is associated with a trusted brand or cites trusted schools or hospitals. 

  • Education: Those more highly educated prefer citations of scientific studies, while those with less than a high school education were much more likely to feel that no measures would help drug information seem more accurate. 

Education makes a positive impact. Our survey found that most visitors to health and wellness sites are motivated to take action based on their site research. Across all demographics, 7 in 10 people say they are “extremely” or “very” likely to fill their prescription based on what they learned, suggesting that education impacts behavior.

However, adherence remains a challenge. Only 41% of people researching a specific medication intend to stay on it. Meanwhile, 19% are researching alternatives to current medications, 13% have a prescription but haven’t filled it yet, and 12% are looking for options for symptoms or conditions not yet treated. In many of these cases, cost is a major consideration and can be a barrier to adherence. 

To Improve Adherence, Focus on Cost-Saving Education and Solutions

Pharma marketers have an opportunity to intervene at this critical education point and address a known barrier to adherence: Affordability. Some 45% of our survey respondents said they have chosen not to fill a prescription due to high out-of-pocket costs. Adherence is more difficult for those who are uninsured, underinsured, or on Medicare. 

Jenny Yu, MD FACS, Chief Health Officer, Healthline Media, explained,


Out-of-pocket prescription costs can be prohibitive for many. In particular, seven in ten individuals ages 35-54 have experienced costs too high to pay, a higher rate than other age ranges. Unfortunately, 74% of people with disabilities have also experienced this barrier to adherence. 

Paying more for drugs is a privilege. Individuals with higher education and income levels are least likely to have issues paying out-of-pocket costs related to prescription medication compared to their counterparts. Those who pay more in out-of-pocket costs might be more likely to afford these higher costs. These demographics include those ages 65+ or retired individuals (whose average expense exceeds $800), men more than women ($913 vs. $666), White respondents more than Black respondents, and individuals with higher household incomes. 

When people can’t pay, they go without their prescriptions. When people can’t afford these high out-of-pocket costs, it directly impacts adherence. Those in the 35-54 range are most impacted, with 60% indicating that they didn’t fill a prescription due to costs. Unemployed individuals also reported being unable to fill the prescription at a much higher rate than respondents who are employed or retired. Not surprisingly, respondents with an income under $50,000 were more likely to skip filling the prescription than those at higher household income levels.  

How Cost-Saving Solutions Can Improve Adherence for All

Healthline Media is partnering with pharma brands to tackle affordability barriers for all, with cost solutions that promote adherence at key decision-making moments, housed within an accessible content ecosystem that’s trusted by diverse audiences.

Healthline Media’s ecosystem is built to improve access for everyone. We put inclusivity and diversity first in how we educate audiences, including our content on chronic conditions, drugs and treatments, and our Bezzy communities for specific chronic condition communities. But that education also goes a step further.

Our new Rx Savings product educates audiences on cost-saving possibilities and offers them an actionable path forward. Our research suggests most people don’t know about financial assistance options for prescriptions. By partnering with Healthline Media, pharma can offer cost-saving opportunities that reach more people and ultimately improve adherence.

Healthline Media Consumer Drug Information Pages Visitors survey. Survey of 868 respondents. Feb-May 2022

About Healthline Media

As the #1 health media property in the US, Healthline Media reaches more than 94MM unique visitors each month (Comscore, August 2021). We provide credible health information with a compassionate approach.