Following your prescriptions as directed can make a big difference for heart disease patients, a CVS Caremark and Brigham and Women's Hospital research team found.

CVS Caremark, Brigham and Women's Hospital, heart disease, coronary artery disease, American Journal of Medicine, medication regimen, Troy Brennan, medication adherence, Asaf Bitton, CAD

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CVS study: Adherence key for heart disease patients

March 20th, 2013

WOONSOCKET, R.I. – Following your prescriptions as directed can make a big difference for heart disease patients, a CVS Caremark and Brigham and Women's Hospital research team found.

CVS said Tuesday that research published in the April issue of the American Journal of Medicine found that patients with coronary artery disease (CAD) who adhere to their prescribed medications can save the health care system up to $868 per patient per year. The study found a trend toward improvement in coronary artery-related events, mortality, readmissions and costs among those patients who most adhered to their medication regimens.

"This study affirms a consistent trend we have seen in research regarding the positive effect of improving medication adherence," Troy Brennan, executive vice president and chief medical officer at CVS Caremark, said in a statement. "Patients with chronic conditions are healthier when they adhere to their prescribed medication regimens and, as a result, the costs associated with their care are reduced."

In the study, titled "The Impact of Medication Adherence on Coronary Artery Disease Costs and Outcomes: A Systematic Review," the researchers reviewed over 2500 studies published between 1966 and 2011, analyzing the 25 studies that met the inclusion criteria related to adherence and CAD outcomes. A subset of the studies measured the impact of medication adherence on primary prevention of CAD, and the remainder focused on the relationship between medication adherence and costs and outcomes related to secondary prevention of the disease.

All of the studies reviewed found that adherence significantly improves health outcomes, and those that analyzed costs found reduced total annual CAD costs, consistently between $294 and $868 per patient.

The researchers also identified an opportunity for greater standardization and improved research methods across medication adherence studies. The authors noted that many of the studies they reviewed didn't account for what they refer to as the "healthy adherer" effect — few of the studies they analyzed controlled for predisposed healthy behaviors in the patients that were followed.

"The research community has long believed that those patients who adhere to their medications may also be more likely to pursue a healthier lifestyle," stated Asaf Bitton, lead author of the study affiliated with the Brigham and Women's Hospital Division of General Medicine and the Harvard Medical School Center for Primary Care. "The next step from a research perspective would be to find a consistent way to control for the effect of these 'healthy adherers' to provide a more accurate picture of adherence for future studies and to further advance the research science in this field."

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States for both men and women and, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, costs the United States $108.9 billion each year.

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