"This study adds to a growing body of research showing how important it is to reduce or eliminate patient co-payment for drugs," said Robert M. Hayes, president of the Medicare Rights Center in New York. "Medicare should take the lead in forging the creation of drug coverage that allows patients to get the medications their doctors consider vital."
"It certainly makes sense from the medical point of view," said Dr. Richard A. Stein, a professor of medicine at New York University. "Studies have shown that giving even middle-income people free drugs improves outcome. The greatest benefit will go to people in the lower socioeconomic and immigrant population."
But the study is theoretical, Stein noted. "One would like to see some real-world trial to determine whether this works in fact, whether providing free drugs without co-payment would make a difference, he said.
Such a study has begun at Harvard, Choudhry noted. His group is working with a major health insurer, not Medicare, in a trial that assigns some people to get medications without cost, while others will get the standard co-payment.
"It will take several years for us to get answers," Choudhry said. But similar investigations are being started by other medical insurers and corporations, he added.
The idea is potentially applicable to some other chronic conditions, such as congestive heart failure and diabetes, Choudhry noted. And, if the use of recommended medications after a heart attack goes up more than predicted by the model, "the cost savings would be phenomenal," he said.
To learn about how to stay on your statins, consult the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.
SOURCES: Niteesh K. Choudhry, M.D., Ph.D., pharmoeconomist, Brigham and Women's Hospital,
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