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MONDAY, May 5, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Nonwhite heart attack survivors are more likely to take prescribed medicines if their copayments are eliminated, according to a new study.
Sticking with their drug treatment plan reduces these patients' risk for future heart problems and additional health care costs, the researchers noted.
"African-Americans and Hispanics with cardiovascular disease are up to 40 percent less likely than whites to receive secondary prevention therapies, such as aspirin and beta-blockers," study lead author Dr. Niteesh Choudhry, an associate physician in the Division of Pharmacoepidemiology at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, and associate professor at Harvard Medical School, said in a hospital news release.
"Our research demonstrates that not only does eliminating medication copayments following a heart attack positively impact the disparity we know exists in cardiovascular care and improve outcomes for nonwhite patients, it also has the potential to dramatically reduce health care spending for this high-risk group."
It's estimated that additional health care costs due to patients not taking recommended medications are as high as $290 billion a year in the United States.
Choudhry and colleagues analyzed data from a clinical trial and found that nonwhite heart attack patients had much lower rates of medication adherence and much higher rates of subsequent heart problems and treatment than white patients.
Eliminating drug copayments boosted medication adherence in both white and nonwhite patients. Among nonwhite patients, it also reduced rates of future heart problems and treatments by 35 percent and total health care spending by 70 percent. This effect on heart health and spending wasn't seen in white patients.
The study appears in the May issue of Health Affairs.
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SOURCE: Brigham and Women's Hospital, news release, May 5, 2014