Study: Patients More Likely to Take Vital Meds When Copays Waived

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<p>Patients discharged from the hospital after myocardial infarction—heart attack—were more likely to take medications prescribed for their condition when copayments were eliminated, a <a href="/publications/journal-article/2011/nov/full-coverage-preventive-medications-after-myocardial">Commonwealth Fund–supported study</a> concludes. Compared with patients whose health plan coverage included cost-sharing for routinely prescribed drugs like statins and beta blockers, the patients with full coverage also experienced fewer heart attacks, strokes, and other vascular events during the study period.</p>
<p>In an article published online in the <em>New England Journal of Medicine </em>(Nov. 14), the research team, led by Niteesh K. Choudhry, M.D., Ph.D., of Harvard Medical School, reported that in addition to the increase in patient adherence to medications, eliminating copayments produced no significant change in total spending by Aetna, the insurer that took part in the trial. This is "a rarity in health care," the authors write, "and suggests that eliminating cost-sharing for secondary prevention after myocardial infarction may be cost-effective."</p>
<p>The cost of prescription drugs is a major contributing factor to medication underuse in the United States. In The Commonwealth Fund’s 2010 Biennial Health Insurance Survey, more than a quarter of U.S. adults ages 19 to 64 reported not filling a prescription because of the cost. <br /></p>