Want People to Take Their Medication? Don't Charge Them.

Jul 9, 2018

Medication adherence – or lack of it is a really big deal in healthcare. A 2017 review in the Annals of Internal Medicine found that Americans not taking medicine as prescribed caused 125,000 deaths, 10 percent of hospitalizations and cost the healthcare system between $100–$289 billion a year. But a new study has found an easy fix for the problem.

Basically? Charge people less. The study published this month in Health Affairs found that the more patients have to pay for their prescriptions, the less likely they are to take them as directed.

But when insurance plans charge patients less for the medications they most need, patients filled their prescriptions more often. Although it costs insurance companies more for patients to take their prescribed drugs more regularly, the overall cost of insuring a patient didn’t rise and, in some cases, even fell – likely because when people are taking their medicine they are less likely to be hospitalized or have complications related to their disease.  

The study focused mostly on patients with chronic conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, cholesterol and asthma. The study’s authors said more insurance plans are moving toward this model of drug coverage, but that as more people opt for high-deductible plans, further legislation is needed to make sure patients can access expensive essential medications for less before they meet their deductible.

Appalachia Health News is a project of West Virginia Public Broadcasting, with support from the Marshall Health, Charleston Area Medical Center and WVU Medicine.