Cutting copayments for people taking cholesterol-lowering drugs can keep them healthier and save more than $1 billion a year in medical costs, according to a study by Rand Corp., Santa Monica, Calif. The study found that when cholesterol-lowering drugs cost less, patients are more likely to take them as prescribed, resulting in almost 80,000 fewer hospitalizations and more than 31,000 fewer emergency room visits each year among the nation's 6.3 million insured adults who use such drugs. The study, published in this month's American Journal of Managed Care, was based on an analysis of information from 88 health plans covering more than 62,000 patients who began taking cholesterol medication between 1997 and 2001. Patients who had a $10 monthly copay were 6% to 10% more likely to fully comply with their prescription than those who had a $20 monthly copay. More-compliant patients had lower hospitalization rates and ER use, the study found. While the research looked only at cholesterol drugs, cutting copays for other chronic medications could have similar results, said Dana Goldman, director of health economics at Rand Health and lead author of the study. "There are obstacles to these policies, but our research suggests they should receive wider consideration," Goldman said in a news release. -- by Laura B. Benko
Cutting drug copays may improve health, lower costs
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