How providers can overcome medication adherence barriers

With medication nonadherence adding up to almost $300 billion annually in unnecessary treatment, cumulative research from CVS Caremark, Harvard University and Brigham and Women's Hospital explores why patients don't take their medications.

Researchers found that high out-of-pocket costs, residence in low-income areas and hand-written prescriptions all made patients less likely to fill their prescriptions.

Moreover, other research showed that prescription type and patient age factored into medication adherence. New prescriptions were less likely to be filled, while younger patients were more prone to stop taking their medications.

With those medication adherence barriers in mind, the research suggests providers create a centralized "pharmacy home" so that a single healthcare professional can fully examine a patient's habits at the pharmacy, as well as pharmacy fulfillment of renewals and refills. Providers should utilize new technology tools, like e-prescribing and reminder systems, to make it easier for patients to fill and organize their prescriptions.

Providers also should avoid writing "dispense as written," to cut back on brand-name drugs and save the industry $7.7 billion a year, according to the research. The cheaper out-of-pocket costs for generic drugs will promote better medication adherence.

"Medication adherence is unique because it gives us a real opportunity to improve patient health while lowering the overall cost of care," Troyen A. Brennan, CVS Caremark executive vice president and chief medical officer, said in a statement.

Meanwhile, expensive out-of-pocket asthma medication costs mean more frequent asthma-related hospitalizations and emergency department visits, concluded a study in today's issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). The study also linked increased out-of-pocket medication costs with slightly reduced medication use.

For more:
- here's the research (.pdf)
- read the CVS press release
- here's the JAMA press release