To examine the nature and extent of unmet prescription medication need (UPMN) in children and its predictors using the 2003 National Survey of Children's Health (NSCH).
Retrospective cross-sectional survey.
United States in 2003–2004.
Parents or guardians who knew most about child's (<18 years of age) health and health care and reported about their children's prescription medication use.
NSCH—a population-based telephone survey—based on complex probability sampling design.
Main outcome measures
Nature and extent of UPMN in children and predictors of UPMN for any reason and as a result of cost, health plan problems, and lack of insurance within the conceptual framework of the Andersen behavioral model.
According to NSCH, 0.54 million (95% CI 0.46–0.62) or 1.23% (1.05–1.41%) of children experienced UPMN. The highest prevalence of UPMN was seen among blacks (2.3%), families with income less than 200% of federal poverty level (2.4%), and those having good, fair, or poor perceived health status (3.2%). A high prevalence of UPMN was also found in children with gained (5.3%), lost (3.7%), or no insurance (6.4%). Among children with UPMN, 35.39% (28.56–42.23%) did not receive medications because of cost, 26.51% (20.28–32.74%) because of health plan problems, and 40.73% (33.21–48.24%) because of lack of insurance. Multivariate logistic regression analysis revealed that predisposing (race), enabling (poverty and insurance), and need (perceived health status and depression) factors were significantly associated with UPMN for any reason. Factors significantly associated with UPMN due to cost included enabling (insurance) and need (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and asthma) factors. The predictors of UPMN resulting from health plan problems included predisposing (race) and enabling (insurance) factors, whereas UPMN caused by lack of insurance was only associated with an enabling factor (age).
More than 0.5 million children in the United States experienced UPMN, mainly as a result of cost, health plan problems, or lack of insurance. The study findings suggest that a need exists for addressing racial disparities and continuity of coverage issues in children to improve access to needed prescription medications.