NY Times cites Rx adherence incentives

ALEXANDRIA, Va. In the seemingly intractable battle waged by doctors and pharmacists to get patients to take their medicines, maybe the carrot works better than the stick.

That’s the message that may be emerging from controversial new programs that reward patients with cash payments if they stick to their prescribed medication therapy. As reported Sunday in The New York Times, some health-plan payers are experimenting with pilot programs that offer financial incentives to patients for taking their medicines as prescribed.

The Times spotlights a program in Philadelphia that provides patients prescribed the anticlotting drug warfarin with a computerized pillbox. Using the pillbox, patients in the program can win cash prizes of $10 or $100 each day they take the drug, according to the report.

The Times also reported on two other initiatives designed to improve adherence: a discount program from CVS Caremark that reduces co-payments for members of some employer-sponsored health plans to encourage them to fill their scripts; and a “pay for performance” program from insurance giant Aetna that rewards doctors with bonuses for prescribing meds that can prevent serious complications for patients with diabetes or heart conditions.

The article also highlighted a recent victory for retail pharmacists with enactment of the massive health-reform law, which contains a provision to expand medication therapy management services for Medicare patients.

The Times also highlighted the health and financial risks of poor adherence in May, with a column titled, “When Patients Don’t Fill Their Prescription.” Both articles point to increasing awareness of the issue by the popular press, according to the National Association of Chain Drug Stores.

“Combined, these articles further illustrate the importance of taking medications properly,” noted a spokesperson for the organization. “NACDS has pledged to own the issue of medication adherence, which can improve patient health and help reduce overall healthcare costs.”

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