Choudhry NK, Brennan T, Toscano M, Spettell C, Glynn RJ, Rubino M, Schneeweiss S, Brookhart AM, Fernandes J, Mathew S, Christiansen B, Antman EM, Avorn J, Shrank WH. Rationale and design of the Post-MI FREEE trial: a randomized evaluation of first-dollar drug coverage for post-myocardial infarction secondary preventive therapies [Internet]. American Heart Journal 2008;156:31-6. Publisher's VersionAbstract

BACKGROUND: Medication nonadherence is a major public health problem, especially for patients with coronary artery disease. The cost of prescription drugs is a central reason for nonadherence, even for patients with drug insurance. Removing patient out-of-pocket drug costs may increase adherence, improve clinical outcomes, and even reduce overall health costs for high-risk patients. The existing data are inadequate to assess whether this strategy is effective. TRIAL DESIGN: The Post-Myocardial Infarction Free Rx and Economic Evaluation (Post-MI FREEE) trial aims to evaluate the effect of providing full prescription drug coverage (ie, no copays, coinsurance, or deductibles) for statins, beta-blockers, angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors, and angiotensin II receptor blockers to patients after being recently discharged from the hospital. Potentially eligible patients will be those individuals who receive their health and pharmacy benefits through Aetna, Inc. Patients enrolled in a Health Savings Account plan, who are > or =65 years of age, whose plan sponsor (ie, the employer, union, government, or association that sponsors the particular benefits package) has opted out of participating in the study, and who do not receive both medical services and pharmacy coverage through Aetna will be excluded. The plan sponsor of each eligible patient will be block randomized to either full drug coverage or current levels of pharmacy benefit, and all subsequently eligible patients of that same plan sponsor will be assigned to the same benefits group. The primary outcome of the trial is a composite clinical outcome of readmission for acute MI, unstable angina, stroke, congestive heart failure, revascularization, or inhospital cardiovascular death. Secondary outcomes include medication adherence and health care costs. All patients will be followed up for a minimum of 1 year. CONCLUSION: The Post-MI FREEE trial will be the first randomized study to evaluate the impact of reducing cost-sharing for essential cardiac medications in high-risk patients on clinical and economic outcomes.

Choudhry NK, Fischer MA, Avorn J, Liberman JN, Schneeweiss S, Pakes J, Brennan TA, Shrank WH. The implications of therapeutic complexity on adherence to cardiovascular medications [Internet]. Archives of Internal Medicine 2011;171:814-822. WebsiteAbstract

BACKGROUND: Patients with chronic disease often take many medications multiple times per day. Such regimen complexity is associated with medication nonadherence. Other factors, including the number of pharmacy visits patients make to pick up their prescriptions, may also undermine adherence. Our objective was to estimate the extent of prescribing and filling complexity in patients prescribed a cardiovascular medication and to evaluate its association with adherence. METHODS: The study population comprised individuals prescribed a statin (n = 1 827 395) or an angiotensin- converting enzyme inhibitor or renin angiotensin receptor blocker (ACEI/ARB) (n = 1 480 304) between June 1, 2006, and May 30, 2007. We estimated complexity by measuring the number of medications, prescribers, pharmacies, pharmacy visits, and refill consolidation (a measure of the number of visits per fill) during the 3 months from the first prescription. The number of daily doses was also measured in ACEI/ARB users. After this period, adherence was evaluated over the subsequent year. The relationship between complexity and adherence was assessed with multivariable linear regression. RESULTS: The statin cohort had a mean age of 63 years and were 49% male. On average, during the 3-month complexity assessment period, statin users filled 11.4 prescriptions for 6.3 different medications, had prescriptions written by 2 prescribers, and made 5.0 visits to the pharmacy. Results for ACEI/ARB users were similar. Greater prescribing and filling complexity was associated with lower levels of adherence. In adjusted models, patients with the least refill consolidation had adherence rates that were 8% lower over the subsequent year than patients with the greatest refill consolidation. CONCLUSION: Medication use and prescription filling for patients with cardiovascular disease is complex, and strategies to reduce this complexity may help improve medication adherence.

Choudhry NK, Fischer MA, Avorn JL, Lee JL, Schneeweiss S, Solomon DH, Berman C, Jan S, Lii J, Mahoney JJ, Shrank WH. The Impact of Reducing Cardiovascular Medication Copayments on Health Spending and Resource Utilization [Internet]. Journal of the American College of Cardiology 2012;60:1817-1824. WebsiteAbstract

OBJECTIVES: The aim of this study was to evaluate the impact of reductions in statin and clopidogrel copayments on cardiovascular resource utilization, major coronary events, and insurer spending. BACKGROUND: Copayments are widely used to contain health spending but cause patients to reduce their use of essential cardiovascular medications. Reducing copayments for post-myocardial infarction secondary prevention has beneficial effects, but the impact of this strategy for lower risk patients and other drugs remains unclear. METHODS: An evaluation was conducted of health care spending and resource use by a large self-insured employer that reduced statin copayments for patients with diabetes or vascular disease and reduced clopidogrel copayments for all patients prescribed this drug. Eligible individuals in the intervention company (n = 3,513) were compared with a control group from other companies without such a policy (n = 49,803). Analyses were performed using segmented regression models with generalized estimating equations. RESULTS: Lowering copayments was associated with significant reductions in rates of physician visits (relative change: statin users 0.80; 95% confidence interval [CI]: 0.57 to 0.98; clopidogrel users: 0.87; 95% CI: 0.59 to 0.96) and hospitalizations and emergency department admissions (relative change: statin users 0.90; 95% CI: 0.80 to 0.92; clopidogrel users: 0.89; 95% CI: 0.74 to 0.90) although not major coronary events. Patient out-of-pocket spending for drugs and other medical services decreased (relative change: statin users 0.79; 95% CI: 0.75 to 0.83; clopidogrel users 0.74; 95% CI: 0.66 to 0.82). Providing more generous coverage did not increase overall spending (relative change: statin users 1.03; 95% CI: 0.97 to 1.09; clopidogrel users 0.94; 95% CI: 0.87 to 1.03). CONCLUSIONS: Lowering copayments for statins and clopidogrel was associated with reductions in health care resource use and patient out-of-pocket spending. The policy appeared cost neutral with respect to overall health spending.

Cutrona SL, Choudhry NK, Fischer MA, Servi AD, Stedman M, Liberman JN, Brennan TA, Shrank WH. Targeting cardiovascular medication adherence interventions [Internet]. Journal of the American Pharmacists Association : JAPhA 2012;52:381-97. WebsiteAbstract

OBJECTIVES To determine whether adherence interventions should be administered to all medication takers or targeted to nonadherers. DATA SOURCES AND STUDY SELECTION Systematic search (Medline and Embase, 1966-2009) of randomized controlled trials of interventions to improve adherence to medications for preventing or treating cardiovascular disease or diabetes. DATA EXTRACTION Articles were classified as (1) broad interventions (targeted all medication takers), (2) focused interventions (targeted nonadherers), or (3) dynamic interventions (administered to all medication takers; real-time adherence information targets nonadherers as intervention proceeds). Cohen's d effect sizes were calculated. DATA SYNTHESIS We identified 7,190 articles; 59 met inclusion criteria. Broad interventions were less likely (18%) to show medium or large effects compared with focused (25%) or dynamic (32%) interventions. Of the 33 dynamic interventions, 6 used externally generated adherence data to target nonadherers. Those with externally generated data were less likely to have a medium or large effect (20% vs. 34.8% self-generated data). CONCLUSION Adherence interventions targeting nonadherers are heterogeneous but may have advantages over broad interventions. Dynamic interventions show promise and require further study.

Brennan TA, Dollear TJ, Hu M, Matlin OS, Shrank WH, Choudhry NK, Grambley W. An integrated pharmacy-based program improved medication prescription and adherence rates in diabetes patients [Internet]. Health Affairs (Millwood) 2012;31:120-9. WebsiteAbstract

A substantial threat to the overall health of the American public is nonadherence to medications used to treat diabetes, as well as physicians' failure to initiate patients' use of those medications. To address this problem, we evaluated an integrated, pharmacy-based program to improve patients' adherence and physicians' initiation rates. The study included 5,123 patients with diabetes in the intervention group and 24,124 matched patients with diabetes in the control group. The intervention consisted of outreach from both mail-order and retail pharmacists who had specific information from the pharmacy benefit management company on patients' adherence to medications and use of concomitant therapies. The interventions improved patients' medication adherence rates by 2.1 percent and increased physicians' initiation rates by 38 percent, compared to the control group. The benefits were greater in patients who received counseling in the retail setting than in those who received phone calls from pharmacists based in mail-order pharmacies. This suggests that the in-person interaction between the retail pharmacist and patient contributed to improved behavior. The interventions were cost-effective, with a return on investment of approximately $3 for every $1 spent. These findings highlight the central role that pharmacists can play in promoting the appropriate initiation of and adherence to therapy for chronic diseases.

Choudhry NK, Avorn J, Glynn RJ, Antman EM, Schneeweiss S, Toscano M, Reisman L, Fernandes J, Spettell C, Lee JL, Levin R, Brennan T, Shrank WH. Full Coverage for Preventive Medications after Myocardial Infarction [Internet]. New England Journal of Medicine 2011;365:2088-2097. WebsiteAbstract

Background Adherence to medications that are prescribed after myocardial infarction is poor. Eliminating out-of-pocket costs may increase adherence and improve outcomes. Methods We enrolled patients discharged after myocardial infarction and randomly assigned their insurance-plan sponsors to full prescription coverage (1494 plan sponsors with 2845 patients) or usual prescription coverage (1486 plan sponsors with 3010 patients) for all statins, beta-blockers, angiotensin-converting-enzyme inhibitors, or angiotensin-receptor blockers. The primary outcome was the first major vascular event or revascularization. Secondary outcomes were rates of medication adherence, total major vascular events or revascularization, the first major vascular event, and health expenditures. Results Rates of adherence ranged from 35.9 to 49.0% in the usual-coverage group and were 4 to 6 percentage points higher in the full-coverage group (P<0.001 for all comparisons). There was no significant between-group difference in the primary outcome (17.6 per 100 person-years in the full-coverage group vs. 18.8 in the usual-coverage group; hazard ratio, 0.93; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.82 to 1.04; P=0.21). The rates of total major vascular events or revascularization were significantly reduced in the full-coverage group (21.5 vs. 23.3; hazard ratio, 0.89; 95% CI, 0.90 to 0.99; P=0.03), as was the rate of the first major vascular event (11.0 vs. 12.8; hazard ratio, 0.86; 95% CI, 0.74 to 0.99; P=0.03). The elimination of copayments did not increase total spending ($66,008 for the full-coverage group and $71,778 for the usual-coverage group; relative spending, 0.89; 95% CI, 0.50 to 1.56; P=0.68). Patient costs were reduced for drugs and other services (relative spending, 0.74; 95% CI, 0.68 to 0.80; P<0.001). Conclusions The elimination of copayments for drugs prescribed after myocardial infarction did not significantly reduce rates of the trial's primary outcome. Enhanced prescription coverage improved medication adherence and rates of first major vascular events and decreased patient spending without increasing overall health costs. (Funded by Aetna and the Commonwealth Fund; MI FREEE number, NCT00566774 .).

Fischer MA, Choudhry NK, Brill G, Avorn J, Schneeweiss S, Hutchins D, Liberman JN, Brennan TA, Shrank WH. Trouble getting started: predictors of primary medication nonadherence [Internet]. The American Journal of Medicine 2011;124:1081 e9-1081 e22. Publisher's VersionAbstract

BACKGROUND: Patient nonadherence to prescribed medication is common and limits the effectiveness of treatment for many conditions. Most adherence studies evaluate behavior only among patients who have filled a first prescription. The advent of electronic prescribing (e-prescribing) systems provides the opportunity to track initial prescriptions and identify nonadherence that may have previously been undetected. METHODS: We analyzed e-prescribing data and filled claims for all patients with CVS Caremark (Woonsocket, RI) drug coverage who received e-prescriptions from the iScribe e-prescribing system in calendar 2008. We matched e-prescriptions with filled claims by using data on the drug name, date of e-prescription, and date of filled claims, allowing up to 180 days for patients to fill e-prescriptions. We evaluated the rate of primary nonadherence to newly prescribed medications across multiple characteristics of patients, prescribers, and prescriptions and developed multivariable models to identify predictors of nonadherence. RESULTS: We identified 423,616 e-prescriptions for new medications, with 3634 prescribers and 280,081 patients. The primary nonadherence rate was 24.0%. Several factors were associated with nonadherence to e-prescriptions, including nonformulary status of medications (odds ratio [OR] 1.31 compared with preferred medications; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.26-1.36; P<.001) and residence in a low-income ZIP code (OR 1.23 compared with high-income ZIP code; 95% CI, 1.17-1.30; P<.001) Nonadherence occurred less often when e-prescriptions were transmitted directly to the pharmacy rather than printed to give to patients (OR 0.54; 95% CI, 0.52-0.57; P<.001). CONCLUSION: 24% of e-prescriptions for new medications were not filled. Our results suggest that interventions to address economic barriers and increase electronic integration in the healthcare system may be promising approaches to improve medication adherence.

Bowry AD, Shrank WH, Lee JL, Stedman M, Choudhry NK. A systematic review of adherence to cardiovascular medications in resource-limited settings [Internet]. Journal of General Internal Medicine 2011;26:1479-91. Publisher's VersionAbstract

BACKGROUND: Medications are a cornerstone of the prevention and management of cardiovascular disease. Long-term medication adherence has been the subject of increasing attention in the developed world but has received little attention in resource-limited settings, where the burden of disease is particularly high and growing rapidly. To evaluate prevalence and predictors of non-adherence to cardiovascular medications in this context, we systematically reviewed the peer-reviewed literature. METHODS: We performed an electronic search of Ovid Medline, Embase and International Pharmaceutical Abstracts from 1966 to August 2010 for studies that measured adherence to cardiovascular medications in the developing world. A DerSimonian-Laird random effects method was used to pool the adherence estimates across studies. Between-study heterogeneity was estimated with an I(2) statistic and studies were stratified by disease group and the method by which adherence was assessed. Predictors of non-adherence were also examined. FINDINGS: Our search identified 2,353 abstracts, of which 76 studies met our inclusion criteria. Overall adherence was 57.5% (95% confidence interval [CI] 52.3% to 62.7%; I(2) 0.98) and was consistent across study subgroups. Studies that assessed adherence with pill counts reported higher levels of adherence (62.1%, 95% CI 49.7% to 73.8%; I(2) 0.83) than those using self-report (54.6%, 95% CI 47.7% to 61.5%; I(2) 0.93). Adherence did not vary by geographic region, urban vs. rural settings, or the complexity of a patient's medication regimen. The most common predictors of poor adherence included poor knowledge, negative perceptions about medication, side effects and high medication costs. INTERPRETATION: Our study indicates that adherence to cardiovascular medication in resource-limited countries is sub-optimal and appears very similar to that observed in resource-rich countries. Efforts to improve adherence in resource-limited settings should be a priority given the burden of heart disease in this context, the central role of medications in their management, and the clinical and economic consequences of non-adherence.

Shrank WH, Liberman JN, Fischer MA, Kilabuk E, Girdish C, Cutrona S, Brennan T, Choudhry NK. Are caregivers adherent to their own medications? [Internet]. Journal of the American Pharmacists Association (2003) 2011;:e53-e59. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Objective: To explore caregiver adherence to chronic medications and predictors of appropriate medication use.Design: Descriptive, nonexperimental, cross-sectional study.Setting: United States in May 2009.Participants: 2,000 adults randomly selected from a large national consumer panel.Intervention: Web-based survey of community pharmacy patients.Main outcome measure: Self-reported medication adherence.Results: 21% of those invited (3,775) responded to the survey invitation. Of the 2,000 individuals who were eligible to participate, 38% described themselves as caregivers. Among caregivers, 45% agreed that they were more likely to forget their own medications than medications for their caregivees. Caregivers were 10% more likely to forget to take their medications, 11% more likely to stop taking medications if they felt well, and 13% more likely to forget to refill their medications than noncaregivers (P < 0.001 for all). In fully adjusted models, caregivers had 36% greater odds (95% CI 0.52-0.79) of reporting that they were nonadherent compared with noncaregivers and increased medication use among caregivees was associated with worse adherence among caregivers (P < 0.05).Conclusion: Medication nonadherence was common in this population, and caregivers were more likely to report poor medication adherence than noncaregivers. Considering that caregivers often engage health professionals, physicians and pharmacists may choose to screen for caregiving status. Pharmacists are uniquely positioned to intervene to enhance appropriate medication adherence.

Misono AS, Cutrona SL, Choudhry NK, Fischer MA, Stedman MR, Liberman JN, Brennan TA, Jain SH, Shrank WH. Healthcare information technology interventions to improve cardiovascular and diabetes medication adherence [Internet]. American Journal of Managed Care 2010;16:SP82-92. Publisher's VersionAbstract

OBJECTIVE: To determine the efficacy of healthcare information technology (HIT) interventions in improving adherence. STUDY DESIGN: Systematic search of randomized controlled trials of HIT interventions to improve medication adherence in cardiovascular disease or diabetes. METHODS: Interventions were classified as 1-way patient reminder systems, 2-way interactive systems, and systems to enhance patient-provider interaction. Studies were subclassified into those with and without real-time provider feedback. Cohen's d effect sizes were calculated to assess each intervention's magnitude of effectiveness. RESULTS: We identified 7190 articles, only 13 of which met inclusion criteria. The majority of included studies (54%, 7 studies) showed a very small ES. The effect size was small in 15%, large in 8%, and was not amenable to calculation in the remainder. Reminder systems were consistently effective, showing the largest effect sizes in this review. Education/counseling HIT systems were less successful, as was the addition of realtime adherence feedback to healthcare providers. Interactive systems were rudimentary and not integrated into electronic health records; they exhibited very small effect sizes. Studies aiming to improve patient-provider communication also had very small effect sizes. CONCLUSIONS: There is a paucity of data about HIT's efficacy in improving adherence to medications for cardiovascular disease and diabetes, although simple patient reminder systems appear effective. Future studies should focus on more sophisticated interactive interventions that expand the functionality and capabilities of HIT and better engage patients in care.

Cutrona SL, Choudhry NK, Fischer MA, Servi A, Liberman JN, Brennan TA, Shrank WH. Modes of delivery for interventions to improve cardiovascular medication adherence [Internet]. American Journal of Managed Care 2010;16:929-42. Publisher's VersionAbstract

OBJECTIVE: To determine the optimal modes of delivery for interventions to improve adherence to cardiovascular medications. STUDY DESIGN: Systematic review. METHODS: We conducted systematic searches of English-language, peer-reviewed publications in MEDLINE and EMBASE, 1966 through December 31, 2008. We selected randomized controlled trials of interventions to improve adherence to medications for preventing or treating cardiovascular disease or diabetes. Articles were classified based on mode of delivery of the main intervention as (1) person-independent interventions (mailed, faxed, or hand distributed; or delivered via electronic interface) or (2) person-dependent interventions (nonautomated phone calls, in-person interventions). RESULTS: We identified 6550 articles. Of these, 168 were reviewed in full and 51 met inclusion criteria. Among person-independent interventions (56% successful), electronic interventions were most successful (67%). Among person-dependent interventions (52% successful), phone calls showed low success rates (38%). In-person interventions at hospital discharge were more effective (67%) than clinic interventions (47%). In-person pharmacist interventions were effective when held in a pharmacy (83% successful), but were less effective in clinics (38%). CONCLUSIONS: Future medication adherence studies should explore new electronic approaches and in-person interventions at the site of medication distribution. Identifying times of increased patient receptivity to the adherence message such as hospital discharge also will be important.

Choudhry NK, Patrick AR, Antman EM, Avorn J, Shrank WH. Cost-effectiveness of providing full drug coverage to increase medication adherence in post-myocardial infarction Medicare beneficiaries [Internet]. Circulation 2008;117:1261-8. Publisher's VersionAbstract
BACKGROUND: Effective therapies for the secondary prevention of coronary heart disease-related events are significantly underused, and attempts to improve adherence have often yielded disappointing results. Elimination of patient out-of-pocket costs may be an effective strategy to enhance medication use. We sought to estimate the incremental cost-effectiveness of providing full coverage for aspirin, beta-blockers, angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors or angiotensin receptor blockers, and statins (combination pharmacotherapy) to individuals enrolled in the Medicare drug benefit program after acute myocardial infarction. METHODS AND RESULTS: We created a Markov cost-effectiveness model to estimate the incremental cost-effectiveness of providing Medicare beneficiaries with full coverage for combination pharmacotherapy compared with current coverage under the Medicare Part D program. Our analysis was conducted from the societal perspective and considered a lifetime time horizon. In a sensitivity analysis, we repeated our analysis from the perspective of Medicare. In the model, post-myocardial infarction Medicare beneficiaries who received usual prescription drug coverage under the Part D program lived an average of 8.21 quality-adjusted life-years after their initial event, incurring coronary heart disease-related medical costs of $114,000. Those who received prescription drug coverage without deductibles or copayments lived an average of 8.56 quality-adjusted life-years and incurred $111,600 in coronary heart disease-related costs. Compared with current prescription drug coverage, full coverage for post-myocardial infarction secondary prevention therapies would result in greater functional life expectancy (0.35 quality-adjusted life-year) and less resource use ($2500). From the perspective of Medicare, full drug coverage was highly cost-effective ($7182/quality-adjusted life-year) but not cost saving. CONCLUSIONS: Our analysis suggests that providing full coverage for combination therapy to post-myocardial infarction Medicare beneficiaries would save both lives and money from the societal perspective.