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Study: High cost is main reason patients skip heart drugs

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
High price of heart drugs

Skipping heart medications puts patients at risk for hospitalization and death

Mayo Clinic researchers say the cost of heart drugs is one of the biggest deterrents for better health for patients suffering from heart failure. In their study, the investigators found even patients with Medicare are concerned about the cost of heart drugs, putting them at risk for hospitalization and death.

The researchers say until now it wasn't entirely clear why heart patients skip their medications. Shannon Dunlay, M.D., Mayo Clinic cardiologist and lead author of the study says, “We found patients weren’t filling their prescriptions because of the expense."

For the study, researchers investigated electronic medical records of recruited study participants in Olmsted County, Minn. The patients, ages 60 to 86, were asked the main reason why they stopped taking heart medications, how often they missed doses or why they neglected taking them at all.

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Among those who reported non-compliance, cost was cited as the main reason. The researchers also found younger patient were more somewhat more likely to forgo their heart drugs and men were more likely than women to stop taking certain types of medications.

Twenty three percent of the 209 patients admitted skipping heart medications because they wanted to save money. Forty six percent either stopped their cholesterol drugs or never had them filled because of the high price.

The study also found even those with Medicare had drug costs concerns that interfere with taking prescribed medications for heart failure.

Dr. Dunlay suggests rather than skipping heart drugs to save money, patients should ask their doctors for less expensive alternatives. The findings show heart failure patients put themselves at risk by skipping drugs because of the high cost, identified as a primary reason by the study participants.

Mayo Clinic Proceedings: doi: 10.4065/​mcp.2010.0732
"Medication Adherence Among Community-Dwelling Patients With Heart Failure"
Shannon M. Dunlay, MD, MSc, Jessica M. Eveleth, PharmD, Nilay D. Shah, PhD, Sheila M. McNallan, MPH, and Veronique L. Roger, MD, MPH