http://online.wsj.com/article/SB123915436586599765.html More Americans are failing to fill prescriptions because of the economic downturn, according to market research. Prescription-drug sales are usually immune to the economy's ups and downs, but the data, released Tuesday by health-information company Wolters Kluwer Health, indicate that the current recession is having an unusually negative impact. .Due to cost, U.S. patients failed to fill 6.8% of the brand-name prescriptions their doctors requested in the 2008 fourth quarter, a 22% increase from the first quarter of 2007. Patients also abandoned prescriptions for generic drugs at a higher rate, failing to fill 4.1% of generic prescriptions. Higher co-payments required under health-insurance plans and other plan features helped boost the number of patients unwilling to pay for their prescriptions, according to the research. The data also suggest that a patient's financial footing is now a part of that calculus. That isn't good news for drug makers already struggling to replace the sales of top-selling medicines losing patent protection over the next several years. "If you talk to heads of pharmaceutical companies, I don't think they'd say they're immune from recessions right now," said Mark Spiers, who heads Wolters Kluwer Pharma Solutions, the company's health-care data and analytics unit. In another ominous sign for drug makers, the data indicate that insurers are flexing their muscle and rejecting coverage for more prescriptions. Health plans denied 10.8% of brand-name prescriptions in the 2008 fourth quarter, a 21% increase from the first quarter in 2007. Insurers may deny a prescription for a specific drug because a less-expensive alternative is available. Supporters of a health-care overhaul want to encourage use of cheaper generic medicines. The data indicate that government and private insurers are already headed that way. The research found generic-drug prescriptions were increasing at a compounded annual rate of 12% between 2004 and 2008, while brand-drug prescriptions were falling at a 6.1% annualized rate. Prescriptions for generic drugs increased to 2.4 billion in 2008, up 200 million from 2007, while orders for brand-name medicines fell by 200 million for the year to 1.4 billion.