A large percentage of heart failure patients skip taking their medications because of cost, putting themselves at greater risk of hospitalization and death, according to researchers from the Mayo Clinic.


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Many heart patients skip pills, study finds

April 4th, 2011

ROCHESTER, Minn. – A large percentage of heart failure patients skip taking their medications because of cost, putting themselves at greater risk of hospitalization and death, according to researchers from the Mayo Clinic.

In a study appearing in the April issue of Mayo Clinic Proceedings, researchers found that the high cost of drugs is one of the biggest deterrents in medication adherence for the more than 5 million Americans with heart failure, the health care provider reported.

"We found patients weren’t filling their prescriptions because of the expense," stated Shannon Dunlay, M.D., a Mayo Clinic cardiologist and lead author of the study.

The study recruited patients from Olmsted County, Minn., and tracked their pharmacy records. Previous studies examined only electronic prescription claims data, possibly missing drugs purchased with cash or not covered by insurance, according to Dunlay. The 209 patients in the study, ages 60 to 86, were asked how often they missed doses, or didn't take the drugs at all, and why.

Researchers found that younger patients were slightly more likely to skip certain heart medications than older patients, and men were less likely than women to stick to certain drug regimens. Among patients who did a poor job adhering to their prescriptions, expense was the top reason: 46% reported that they had stopped taking statins or not filled a prescription because of cost, and 23% admitted to skipping doses to save money.

The Mayo Clinic said that although 77% of patients in the study were eligible for Medicare, medication costs remained a critical issue for some of them. Dunlay noted that heart failure patients concerned about being able to afford their medications should consult with their doctors, since there often are lower-cost alternatives.

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