When patients with chronic health conditions have lower out-of-pocket costs for medications, they are more likely to fill their prescriptions, a recent review of past studies shows.


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Study finds lower co-pays help improve adherence

September 24th, 2012

NEW YORK – When patients with chronic health conditions have lower out-of-pocket costs for medications, they are more likely to fill their prescriptions, a recent review of past studies shows.

While the findings reported in the most recent issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine sound logical, researchers point out that they give credence to the theory that lower drug costs should improve people’s medication adherence rates.

“It was striking to us,” lead researcher Meera Viswanathan, of RTI International, a Durham, N.C.-based research institute, told Reuters news agency. “If you help people with costs, even a little, it seems to improve adherence.”

Viswanathan and several of her colleagues reviewed dozens of studies done in the United States over the past few years on efforts to improve people’s ability to stick with their prescriptions.

A handful of the studies that were reviewed focused on insurance coverage — either giving people drug coverage or lowering their out-of-pocket costs for prescriptions.

Others looked at what happened after Medicare prescription coverage took effect in 2006; and others examined the impact of reducing co-payments for people with private insurance.

The researchers found that better coverage seems to help. In a study of nearly 6,000 heart attack patients, for example, those given full drug coverage through their insurer got more prescriptions filled.

Depending on the medications they were taking, between 36% and 49% of those patients who were on their usual insurance filled their prescriptions. Those rates were four to six percentage points higher among people with full drug coverage.

Patients with full coverage also suffered new complications, such as a stroke or second heart attack, at a slightly lower rate: 11%, compared with just under 13%.

“There were some encouraging findings,” Viswanathan told Reuters.

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