People More Likely to Take Free Meds, UNC Study Finds
Patients with chronic conditions are more likely to take their prescribed medications as directed when those medicines are offered at no cost, according to a study at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill done in conjunction with Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina and Duke University.
BCBS made generic medications for high blood pressure, high cholesterol, congestive heart failure, and diabetes free to nearly 75,000 patients, which resulted in statistically significant improvements in patients’ adherence to their medication, researchers at the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy found. The copayment for brand-name drugs was also lowered.
Over a two-year period, adherence improved by 2 percent to 5 percent across six drug classes compared to patients who were not enrolled in the program with lower drug costs. Patients who were historically bad about not taking their medicines (defined by the researchers as patients who used their medication correctly less than half the time) improved their adherence by 3 percent to 9 percent over the same period. Their findings were published in the June issue of the American Journal of Managed Care.
“Our study suggests that cost is a significant burden for patients who need medications for important chronic illnesses,” says Joel Farley, PhD, lead author of the study. “Reducing that burden on patients can improve their adherence to their prescribed treatment. This could result in better health outcomes, which is something we are currently evaluating.”
Farley is an assistant professor in the Division of Pharmaceutical Outcomes and Policy at the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy. His coauthors on the study are Daryl Wansink, PhD, of BCBS; Jennifer H. Lindquist, MStat, Durham Veterans Affairs; John C. Parker, PhD, BCBS; and Matthew L. Maciejewski, PhD, of Duke University Medical Center.
This work was supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Health Care Financing and Organization Initiative (#67641) and BlueCross BlueShield of North Carolina. Maciejewski was also supported by a Research Career Scientist Award from the Department of Veterans Affairs (RCS 10-391).