Heart Health

06 May 2014

Copayments deter patients from taking heart meds

In the US, African-Americans and Hispanics with cardiovascular disease are up to 40% less likely than whites to receive secondary prevention therapies.


Non-white heart attack survivors are more likely to take prescribed medicines if their copayments (a fixed fee that subscribers to a medical plan must pay for their use of specific medical services covered by the plan) are eliminated, according to a new study.

Sticking with their drug treatment plan reduces these patients' risk for future heart problems and additional health care costs, the researchers noted.

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"African-Americans and Hispanics with cardiovascular disease are up to 40% less likely than whites to receive secondary prevention therapies, such as aspirin and beta-blockers," study lead author Dr Niteesh Choudhry, an associate physician in the Division of Pharmacoepidemiology at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, and associate professor at Harvard Medical School, said in a hospital news release.

"Our research demonstrates that not only does eliminating medication copayments following a heart attack positively impact the disparity we know exists in cardiovascular care and improve outcomes for non-white patients, it also has the potential to dramatically reduce health care spending for this high-risk group."

Lower rates of medication adherence

It's estimated that additional health care costs due to patients not taking recommended medications are as high as $290 billion a year in the United States.

Choudhry and colleagues analysed data from a clinical trial and found that non-white heart attack patients had much lower rates of medication adherence and much higher rates of subsequent heart problems and treatment than white patients.

Eliminating drug copayments boosted medication adherence in both white and non-white patients. Among non-white patients, it also reduced rates of future heart problems and treatments by 35% and total health care spending by 70%. This effect on heart health and spending wasn't seen in white patients.

The study appears in Health Affairs.

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