Research sponsored by CVS Caremark Corp. found that pharmacists in a retail store are the most influential health care "voice" in getting patients to take their medications as prescribed.

CVS Caremark, medication adherence, pharmacists, in-store pharmacists, prescription drug, prescription drug regimen, Harvard University, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Troy Brennan, William Schrank, American Journal of Managed Care, Journal of General Internal Medicine, patient adherence, medication adherence rates

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In-person communication with pharmacists lifts adherence

December 22nd, 2010

WOONSOCKET, R.I. – Research sponsored by CVS Caremark Corp. found that pharmacists in a retail store are the most influential health care "voice" in getting patients to take their medications as prescribed.

The company said Wednesday that in-store pharmacists are more effective in promoting medication adherence than pharmacists talking to a patient via phone or doctors instructing patients regarding prescriptions, according to a new study examining in-person, electronic, telephonic, fax and mail communications that counsel patients to stay on their prescription drug regimens.

Nurses talking with patients as they are discharged from a hospital are the second most influential voice in getting patients to stay on their medicines, the research revealed.

CVS Caremark said the findings are in two separate reviews of medical journal studies carried out by a team of researchers from Harvard University, Brigham and Women's Hospital and CVS Caremark. This week, the American Journal of Managed Care (AJMC) published a review that focused on communications between pharmacists and nurses with their patients. The AJMC study builds on a review by the same researchers that focused on doctor and patient communications and was published last May in the Journal of General Internal Medicine.

"These findings offer payers, health care providers and policy makers guidance about how to develop programs that improve patient adherence," stated Troy Brennan, executive vice president and chief medical officer of CVS Caremark and an author of both reviews. "We know that pharmacists and nurses are among the most trusted health care professionals. This study shows that trust translates into effective patient communications."

Programs using mail, fax and brochure-type communications had a relatively low impact on promoting patient adherence, according to the new research. A review of the use of electronic communications, such as video and interactive technology, show promise but had only a medium impact on increasing adherence among patients, the study concluded.

The highest-impact programs featured work by pharmacists talking to patients in a store, followed by nurses talking face-to-face with patients who were leaving a hospital, the study noted. Face-to-face interaction between pharmacists and patients in a store was twice as effective boosting medication adherence rates as programs where pharmacists talk with patients on the telephone, researchers found.

"There have been many studies on the subject of boosting adherence. We decided it was important to review the total body of work to determine which communication channel had the greatest impact," William Shrank, M.D., MSHS, of Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard, and a lead author of the studies, said in a statement. He added that the researchers combed through more than 6,500 medical journal articles published between 1966 and 2008 before reviewing 168 articles in full.

The study stems from CVS Caremark's previously announced three-year collaboration with Harvard University and Brigham and Women's Hospital to research pharmacy claims data to better understand patient behavior, particularly around medication adherence.

Most recently under the collaboration, CVS Caremark in November announced the results of a study it did in tandem with Harvard, Brigham and Women's Hospital that identified a high co-payment as a chief reason when patients "abandon" a prescription.