The tumbling economy may be making Americans queasy, but they're apparently so worried about their pocketbooks that they're skipping their meds.

“I’ve seen patients today who said they stopped taking their Lipitor, their cholesterol-lowering medicine, because they can’t afford it,” James King, chairman of the American Academy of Family Physicians, tells the New York Times today. “I have patients who have stopped taking their osteoporosis medication.”

The number of prescriptions filled in the U.S. dropped for the first time in a decade, recent data from the tracking service IMS Health shows. Timothy Anderson of Sanford C. Bernstein & Company, a pharmaceutical analyst, told the Times the 2 percent dip is “most likely tied to a worsening economic environment.”

The drop comes after a 72 percent surge in prescriptions from 1997 to 2007 – a trend that that prompted scrutiny of financial relationships between doctors and pharmaceutical companies and criticism of direct-to-consumer ads encouraging ailing Americans to ask their physicians about expensive new drugs.

Drug prices rose by nearly 7 percent each year over the past decade, with the average retail price of an Rx soaring from $35.72 to $69.91, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

“Don’t tell my wife, but if I have 30 days’ worth of pills, I’ll usually stretch those out to 35 or 40 days,” Missourian Martin Schwarzenberger, who takes cholesterol medication, told the Times. “You’re trying to keep a house over your head and use your money to pay all your bills.”

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