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Reducing Prescription Drug Costs Encourages Consistent Use, Studies Find

By CQ Staff

November 2, 2010 -- Two studies on "value-based insurance design" published in the November issue of Health Affairs magazine say that when consumers pay less for certain prescription drugs needed to combat a chronic illness, they are more likely to adhere to a regimen. But it remains unclear whether this will ultimately reduce drug spending or lead to better outcomes.

In value-based insurance design, cost-sharing is lowered for drugs that have strong evidence of clinical benefit relative to cost, in the hopes of changing patient behavior.

When the corporation Pitney Bowes did away with copayments for statins that lower cholesterol, employees' adherence to the drug regimen increased by 2.8 percent, one study supported by the Commonwealth Fund says. The employees had diabetes or vascular disease.

A second study says Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina found similar results more broadly for patients with diabetes, hypertension, hyperlipidemia, and congestive heart failure.

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