CVS Caremark: Medication adherence gets in way of social life, patients say

WOONSOCKET, R.I. Some patients stop taking their prescribed medications because they think it interferes with personal priorities or compromises social aspects of their lives, according to the results of a CVS Caremark study.

To examine why some patients who said they want to be adherent to their medications still stop taking them, CVS Caremark enlisted psychologists and selected Minds at Work of Cambridge, Mass., to conduct a study.

Minds at Work, a company founded by Harvard University psychologists, conducted hour-long, "hidden motivations" interviews with participants to understand the underlying cause of their actions.


"We are looking at patient non-adherence from every angle in an effort to solve this problem," stated Dr. Troyen Brennan, EVP and chief medical officer of CVS Caremark. "We are working with researchers to study claims data. We launched a research partnership with behavioral economists and social marketing experts to understand patient behavior. This review by psychologists adds to those efforts and gives us yet another view of consumers as we work to improve pharmacy care."



Non-adherence is a frequent cause of preventable hospitalizations and patient illnesses and costs the U.S. healthcare system an estimated $300 billion annually.



Among the findings of the Mind at Work study:

  • Twenty-four percent came to see that taking prescribed medications interfered with personal priorities, including taking care of family members, comprising social aspects of their lives or finding it to be just another in a long line of chores to keep track of.
  • Twenty-one percent came to see taking their medicine made them feel like they were losing control of their lives and sometimes by stopping their medicine they felt they were resisting authority.
  • Seventeen percent came to see they felt taking medicine gave them an unfavorable identify, made them feel old or they wanted others to view them in a more favorable light.
  • Sixteen percent came to see they felt they knew better than their doctors what was good for them; some believed they should take care of their health through exercise and diet.
  • Sixteen percent came to see they were wary of the healthcare and pharmaceutical industries and did not want to become dependent on medications or suffer unknown side effects.
  • Six percent came to see they did not want to change their personal routines, so they simply put off taking their medications.

In addition, CVS Caremark is continually testing new communications strategies and new programs to drive adherence among its PBM population, taking results of this study and other initiatives into consideration to develop programs that might help improve adherence rates.



The work complements CVS Caremark's previously announced three-year collaboration with Harvard and Brigham and Women's Hospital to research pharmacy claims data to better understand patient behavior around medication adherence. The company also announced earlier in April the launch of a Behavior Change Research Partnership with academic leaders from Carnegie Mellon University, Dartmouth College's Tuck School of Business and the University of Pennsylvania's Medical School and Wharton School of Business.


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