Aetna, CVS Caremark, Merck, and University of Connecticut School of Medicine Participate in Medication Adherence Summit

HARTFORD, Conn.--(BUSINESS WIRE)-- With up to 80 percent of patients in the U.S. not taking medications as prescribed by their physicians, Aetna (NYSE: AET) convened a summit of thought leaders to discuss both the reasons behind this phenomenon, and the potential solutions that can address this significant issue. The summit included perspectives from leaders within Aetna, CVS Caremark, Merck & Co., and the University of Connecticut’s School of Medicine.

“Research shows that poor adherence causes about 125,000 deaths annually in the US and leads to 10 to 25 percent of hospital and nursing home admissions,” according to Mark Friedlander, M.D., Chief Medical Officer of Aetna Behavioral Health, the Aetna business which coordinated the summit. “At Aetna, we recognize the importance of medication adherence education and felt it was necessary to help raise awareness of the subject. We are continually looking for new ways to improve member health and productivity. Medication adherence is one promising approach to further improving patient outcomes.”

The summit was extremely successful in generating discussion of the multiple health complications that come from poor adherence, such as quality of life impacts, complications from chronic conditions and over 250 billion dollars in increased medical costs.

The following speakers reviewed current research on medication adherence, methods of improving adherence, the use of technology in this effort, and the critical role that provider / patient communication plays in determining adherence:

  • Mark Friedlander, M.D., Chief Medical Officer, Aetna Behavioral Health
  • Edmund Pezalla, M.D., Chief Medical Officer, Aetna Pharmacy
  • Colleen A. McHorney, PhD, Senior Director of U.S. Outcomes Research, Merck
  • Jeffrey Audley, Vice President of Clinical Products of CVS Caremark
  • Olga S. Matlin, PhD, of CVS Caremark
  • Scott Sobocinski, Pharm D, Pharmacy Informatics Manager, ActiveHealth
  • Gregory Makoul, PhD, Chief Academic Officer and Senior Vice President for Innovation at Saint Francis Hospital and Medical Center, and Professor of Medicine at the University of Connecticut

“Non-adherence is both an issue and an opportunity for Aetna,” says Edmund Pezalla, M.D., Chief Medical Officer of Aetna Pharmacy. “We believe that our focus on improving adherence will not only improve clinical outcomes but also produce long-term medical cost savings.”

Summit participants acknowledged the importance of continued efforts to identify and advance new and innovative measures designed to improve medication adherence, and to look for additional opportunities to engage providers and patients on the issue.

Aetna is currently working to improve medication adherence by:

  • Using technologies such as texting to communicate with individuals through the most convenient channels.
  • Working with professional associations, advocacy groups (such as the National Consumers League), national health bodies and the pharmaceutical industry to promote medication adherence.
  • Collaborating with academic and industry partners in research to understand underlying causes and potential remedies for poor adherence.
  • Educating members in plain language on how to use medications properly and the importance of adhering to their medication plan.

As a company, Aetna has also committed to aligning its significant clinical and information technology capabilities to improve efficiency, identify best practices, and collaborate on future initiatives.

“We were pleased with the opportunity to share research in this highly useful forum,” says Colleen A. McHorney, PhD, Merck. “Given the serious health consequences that can occur from medication non-adherence, it is critical for all stakeholders to adopt evidence-based solutions to more effectively address this problem. Merck will continue to focus on research that identifies the reasons why patients are not always adherent to their prescribed medicines, and support the development and enhancement of interventions to help improve patient adherence and, thereby, patient health outcomes.”

About Aetna

Aetna is one of the nation’s leading diversified health care benefits companies, serving approximately 36.5 million people with information and resources to help them make better informed decisions about their health care. Aetna offers a broad range of traditional, voluntary and consumer-directed health insurance products and related services, including medical, pharmacy, dental, behavioral health, group life and disability plans, and medical management capabilities and health care management services for Medicaid plans. Our customers include employer groups, individuals, college students, part-time and hourly workers, health plans, governmental units, government-sponsored plans, labor groups and expatriates. For more information, see


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