CVS Caremark, Harvard and Brigham and Women's Research Finds Family Caregivers Likely to be Non-Adherent to their own Medication

WOONSOCKET, R.I., May 25, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- A new study by researchers at Harvard University, Brigham and Women's Hospital and CVS Caremark finds that 45 percent of people who provide care and support to relatives say they are more likely to be non-adherent to their personal medication regimen than to neglect providing medications to a loved one they are caring for. More than 65 million Americans describe themselves as caregivers and as the U.S. population ages that number is expected to grow.

In a study published online this week in the Journal of the American Pharmacists Association (JAPhA) the researchers said, "Approximately one-half of caregivers reported they are more likely to forgo their own medications than the medication needs of their caregivees, especially if cost was a problem, and that caring for their family members was more important than caring for themselves." The researchers added, "Our findings indicate care-giving status may be an important characteristic for providers to identify and that caregivers may represent a fertile target for adherence interventions to improve chronic disease management and prevent chronic disease."

The latest study is a product of CVS Caremark's three-year collaboration with Harvard University and Brigham and Women's Hospital to research pharmacy claims data to better understand patient behavior, and how the health care system can improve it, particularly around medication adherence. The JAPhA study was published as CVS Caremark is sponsoring a forum on adherence at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., to discuss the research findings of its collaboration and to outline future research and program initiatives the company is pursuing to address the problem that is estimated to cost the U.S. health care system almost $300 billion annually.  

For the JAPhA study, the research team conducted an online survey of 2,000 retail pharmacy customers of which 38 percent, or 762 respondents, described themselves as caregivers. Of that group:


  • 45 percent said they somewhat or strongly agree that they are more likely to forget to take their own medications even though they provide family members with their medicine.
  • 46 percent said caring for their family is more important than caring for themselves and 52 percent said they are more likely to sacrifice their own health to make sure they properly care for family members.
  • 53 percent reported that managing both their personal health and caring for another is stressful and that they eat to cope with that stress.
  • When comparing caregivers with non-caregivers, caregivers said they are 10 percent more likely to forget taking their medicines, 11 percent are likely to stop taking their medications if they feel better and 13 percent said they are likely to forget filling their refills.



"We found there is a compelling relationship between care giving and medication adherence," said William Shrank, MD, MSHS, of Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School and lead author of the study. "Caregivers appear to be so focused on helping family members that they often forget to take care of themselves, behavior that can have severe consequences for their health and well-being. Health care professionals should identify and target this group to help them better manage their personal health while caring for family members."  

"These results highlight an important opportunity for our industry to work with a target population to increase adherence," said Troyen A. Brennan, executive vice president and chief medical officer of CVS Caremark, and a co-author of the study. "Doctors need to identify caregivers so they can provide appropriate support. In addition, pharmacists are uniquely positioned to intervene and encourage caregivers to take their medicine because the caregiver is often the person who is picking up medications for both family members and themselves."

About CVS Caremark

CVS Caremark is the largest pharmacy health care provider in the United States with integrated offerings across the entire spectrum of pharmacy care. We are uniquely positioned to engage plan members in behaviors that improve their health and to lower overall health care costs for health plans, plan sponsors and their members. CVS Caremark is a market leader in mail order pharmacy, retail pharmacy, specialty pharmacy, and retail clinics, and is a leading provider of Medicare Part D Prescription Drug Plans. As one of the country's largest pharmacy benefits managers (PBMs), we provide access to a network of approximately 65,000 pharmacies, including more than 7,200 CVS/pharmacy® stores that provide unparalleled service and capabilities. Our clinical offerings include our signature Pharmacy AdvisorTM program as well as innovative generic step therapy and genetic benefit management programs that promote more cost effective and healthier behaviors and improve health care outcomes. General information about CVS Caremark is available through the Company's website at

Media Contact:
Jon Sandberg
CVS Caremark
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