In tandem with academia, CVS Caremark Corp. aims to research in-depth why people follow or don't follow their prescribed medication regimen.

CVS Caremark, medication adherence, Behavior Change Research Partnership, Carnegie Mellon University, Dartmouth College, Tuck School of Business, University of Pennsylvania's Medical School, Wharton School of Business, prescribed medication, medication regimen, Troy Brennan, Russell Redman, drug store, pharmacy, Harvard, Brigham and Women's Hospital

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CVS Caremark tackles medication adherence

March 2nd, 2010

WOONSOCKET, R.I. – In tandem with academia, CVS Caremark Corp. aims to research in-depth why people follow or don't follow their prescribed medication regimen.

The drug store chain and pharmacy benefit manager said Tuesday it's forming the Behavior Change Research Partnership, in which it will work with academic leaders from Carnegie Mellon University, Dartmouth College's Tuck School of Business and the University of Pennsylvania's Medical School and Wharton School of Business to develop insights into consumer actions around health challenges by studying the issues via behavioral economics and social marketing.

The partnership reflects overall efforts by the pharmacy sector to foster medication adherence, an issue the industry has championed during the national debate on health care reform as a key vehicle for lowering long-term costs while improving health outcomes.

According to CVS Caremark, the partnership will study reasons why people who go to the doctor often choose to not fill their initial prescriptions or prematurely stop taking those medications during treatment and recovery. Researchers also will examine why consumers may choose to buy more expensive brand medications when they have access to generic drugs that may provide identical or similar health outcomes.

Among the areas to be studied by the partnership are providing appropriate incentives, such as lower copays and immediate up-front rewards, to spur consumer decisions to help improve health care behavior; developing education tools to encourage positive behavior; and tailoring communications to find specific messages that resonate with individuals to promote improved health outcomes, adherence and personal care.

"This partnership represents another step in our effort to learn more about how we can help patients understand that effective pharmacy care can impact overall medical costs," Troy Brennan, executive vice president and chief medical officer at CVS Caremark, said in a statement. "While we know there are many reasons people stop taking their medicine — cost, forgetfulness, side effects and others — this research will help us counsel consumers to make the right decision regarding their health."

CVS Caremark said the Behavior Change Research Partnership will be led by George Lowenstein of Carnegie Mellon; Punam Anand Keller of Dartmouth University, Tuck School of Business; and Kevin Volpp of the University of Pennsylvania Medical School and The Wharton School of Business.

The pharmacy company added that the research partnership complements its three-year collaboration with researchers from Harvard and Brigham and Women's Hospital, announced in mid-October, to study pharmacy claims data to better understand patient behavior around medication adherence.

Past studies show that 25% of people receiving prescriptions never fill their first prescription, and patients with chronic diseases such as diabetes and coronary artery disease adhere to their ongoing medication regimen only about half of the time, according to CVS Caremark. In addition, nonadherence to essential medications is seen as a frequent cause of preventable hospitalizations and patient illness, with costs to the U.S. health care system estimated at about $300 billion annually.

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