Study: CDHPs lead patients to drop medications

New research funded by pharmacy benefit manager Express Scripts has concluded that consumers give up medications rather than switch from brand-name drugs to generics. The study, which looked at healthcare claims for two national employers, compared prescription claims for the first nine months of 2005 versus the first nine months of 2006. The employers had kicked off CDHPs for their employees in January 2006, with one of the two employers seeing more than 20 percent of employees enroll. While the CDHPs cut one employer's drug costs by 62 percent and the other's by 24 percent, employees cut back brand-drug spending by 13 percent. Generic drug spending didn't pick up by an equivalent percentage. (Not so surprisingly, the study concluded that consumers enrolled in pharmacy benefit plans did the "right" thing, picking up more generics without dropping potentially important brand-name treatments.) Experts note that some of the patients who dropped branded drugs may not have needed them, but admit that others may not have been able to afford their medications. Yes, this research comes with an agenda, given its PBM backing. Still, a growing body of studies suggest that if the CDHP concept is going to work, the health plan industry will want to re-examine its assumptions about consumer behavior.

To find out more about the study:
- read this St. Louis Post-Dispatch article
- read the Express Scripts press release

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