Study shows pharmacists, plan designs can raise Rx adherence
DEERFIELD, Ill. — Pharmacist interventions and benefit plan designs with low co-payments can help improve adherence to cholesterol-lowering drugs for patients in minority communities, according to a new study developed by Walgreens and the University of Chicago.
Walgreens said the study, published in the Journal of Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities, found that in the primarily African-American and Hispanic neighborhoods examined, better adherence to statin medications was related to several variables, including co-pays less than $10, the use of 90-day refills and if a patient had a health plan besides Medicaid.
“Adherence to medications for chronic conditions such as high cholesterol is critical to the prevention of unnecessary hospitalizations and better heart health outcomes for patients,” study co-author Michael Taitel, senior director of health analytics, research and reporting for Walgreens, said in a statement. “Our study demonstrates that lower adherence in largely minority neighborhoods is a significant challenge and suggests that community pharmacies can play a role in helping to address it.”
Specifically, the study compared medication adherence rates for over 300,000 patients filling new prescriptions for statins at Walgreens pharmacies in mostly minority communities with patients filling the same prescriptions at Walgreens in mainly Caucasian neighborhoods. In analyses adjusting for patient-level factors associated with poor adherence — such as age, insurance, payer, prescription cost and convenience — patients living in African-American and Hispanic neighborhoods had two to three weeks less statin therapy over a year time, marking a sizable difference, Walgreens noted.
“The data will be helpful for all stakeholders in developing, implementing and measuring programs and strategies designed to improve adherence among these patients, ultimately improving health outcomes while reducing costs for our health care system,” Taitel stated.
Besides Taitel, the study was authored by Jenny Jiang of Walgreens’ clinical outcomes and analytical services division; Andrew Davis, Monica Peek, Chia-Hung Chou and Elbert Huang of the University of Chicago Division of General Internal Medicine; and Dima Qato of the University of Illinois College of Pharmacy’s Department of Pharmacy Systems, Outcomes and Policy in its Center for Pharmacoepidemiology and Pharmacoeconomic Research.
According to Walgreens, earlier research has shown that lower adherence to cardiovascular medications among African-American and Hispanic patients likely contributes to a persistent, seven-year lower overall life expectancy compared with Caucasians. Pharmacist interventions with patients at risk for low adherence across several medication classes, including statins, have been demonstrated improved adherence and lower health care costs, the company said.