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CVS Caremark Sponsored Research Finds Twenty Four Percent of New Prescriptions Never Filled

WOONSOCKET, R.I., Oct. 26, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- Twenty four percent of patients given a new medication by their doctor did not fill the prescription, according to a new study by researchers at Harvard University, Brigham and Women's Hospital and CVS Caremark and published this week in the American Journal of Medicine.  


Most prior research of patients who do not take medications as prescribed – commonly known as medication non-adherence – looked at patient behavior after filling a first prescription. The advent of electronic prescribing provides the opportunity to track initial prescriptions that may have been previously undetected and gives health care providers a broader look at patients who never fill their new prescriptions.

The newest CVS Caremark-sponsored study evaluated more than 423,000 e-prescriptions written in 2008 by 3,634 doctors for more than 280,000 patients from all 50 states. The study team matched the e-prescriptions with resulting claims data, or in the case of those not filling the prescription, used the lack of a claim within six months to identify primary non-adherence.

"When patients don't take their medications, especially for chronic conditions, they miss an opportunity to improve their health and avoid long-term complications," said Michael A. Fischer, MD, MS, of Brigham and Women's and Harvard Medical School, the lead author of the study. "While some recent research has used e-prescribing data to evaluate primary non-adherence, we were able to study a nationwide sample of patients. Our finding that 24 percent of patients are not filling initial prescriptions reflects slightly higher primary non-adherence than seen in earlier studies."

"CVS Caremark is looking at this issue from every angle," said Troyen A. Brennan, MD, MPH, executive vice president and Chief Medical Officer of CVS Caremark, and a study co-author. "This study reviewed factors that might cause patients to ignore that first fill, so we can arm health care providers with information to proactively address the problem."

Among the factors highlighted by the researchers as predictive of primary non-adherence are:

  • The out-of-pocket cost of medications. Patients who received prescriptions for medications that were not included on their health care formulary – and were therefore more expensive because co-pays would be higher – are more likely not to fill their first prescription.
  • The integration of the doctors' health information systems. Prescriptions sent directly to pharmacies or mail-order systems are more likely to be filled than e-prescriptions that doctors print out and give to patients.  
  • Socio-economic factors. The researchers determined by reviewing zip codes and census data that patients who live in higher income areas are more likely to fill prescriptions for new medications.
  • The type of medications. Prescriptions written for infants are almost always filled and antibiotics are filled at a rate of 90 percent. Medications for hypertension or diabetes saw primary non-adherence rates in excess of 25 percent.

This latest study is another result of a three-year research collaboration between CVS Caremark, Brigham and Women's Hospital, and Harvard that aims to develop a better understanding of patient behavior, with a special focus on medication adherence. Annual excess health care costs due to medication non-adherence in the United States are estimated to be as much as $300 billion annually.

About CVS Caremark

CVS Caremark is the largest pharmacy health care provider in the United States with integrated offerings across the entire spectrum of pharmacy care. We are uniquely positioned to engage plan members in behaviors that improve their health and to lower overall health care costs for health plans, plan sponsors and their members. CVS Caremark is a market leader in mail order pharmacy, retail pharmacy, specialty pharmacy, and retail clinics, and is a leading provider of Medicare Part D Prescription Drug Plans. As one of the country's largest pharmacy benefits managers (PBMs), we provide access to a network of approximately 65,000 pharmacies, including more than 7,200 CVS/pharmacy® stores that provide unparalleled service and capabilities. Our clinical offerings include our signature Pharmacy Advisor program as well as innovative generic step therapy and genetic benefit management programs that promote more cost effective and healthier behaviors and improve health care outcomes. General information about CVS Caremark is available through the Company's website at

Media Contact:

Jon Sandberg
CVS Caremark
(401)770 4914

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