Adherence to Chronic Disease Medications among New York City Medicaid Participants

People with hypertension, diabetes, and high cholesterol are prescribed medication to prevent or control heart disease. When people don’t take their medication, their health care ends up costing more, and they place themselves at greater risk of hospitalization and death. Barriers to adherence include regimen complexity, quantity of medicine dispensed per fill, and the number of pharmacy visits needed per month. Cost can be a barrier to adherence too, however for New York State Medicaid participants cost is not an issue as copays are minimal or nonexistent.

When researchers analyzed New York City Medicaid claims from 2008 to 2009, they found adherence to chronic disease medications was 63 percent. Of the 160,236 study subjects, 38 percent were Hispanic, 23 percent Black, 15 percent Asian/Pacific Islander, and 13 percent White. Some 66 percent were 50–64 years old. Compared to Whites (67.5% adherence) and Asians (69.0% adherence), Blacks (57.5%) and Hispanics (61.0%) were less likely to take the drugs they had been prescribed for their chronic conditions.

The authors hope that their study provides public health departments with information to identify and put in place interventions—such as dispensing more medication at one fill—to increase adherence and improve health outcomes.