Lowering prices: does it improve adherence to prescription drugs?

Date posted: 
Wednesday, March 30, 2016

The cost of medication is an important factor influencing adherence to a drug regimen. It is estimated that one in 10 Canadians cannot afford to take their medication as prescribed, and the figures are even higher in British Columbia, where 17% of the population report not being able to take their medications as prescribed due to cost.

In July 2010, the Government of British Columbia reached an agreement with the BC Pharmacy Association and the Canadian Association of Chain Drug Stores to reduce the price of generic drugs over a period of 3 years.

Fidela Mushashi, a student in the School of Population and Public Health at the University of British Columbia, has received approval to access data for a Master’s thesis to examine the effects of BC’s reduction in generic drug prices, looking at adherence to statin medication in particular.

“Statins are the most commonly prescribed lipid-lowering agents in Canada and play a large part in reducing poor health and mortality associated with cholesterol and cardiovascular disease,” says Ms Mushashi. “Clinical trials show that patients start to see health benefits after taking statins for one to two years, however, their effectiveness is notably compromised by poor adherence to a medication regimen. Results from a recent study showed that between 40% and 75% of patients discontinue their statin therapy after one year of treatment, for one reason or another.”

While there is a large body of research on other factors affecting adherence, (such as socio-demographics, medication tolerance and physical access to the healthcare system) little is known about the effect of recent changes in generic drug prices on statin adherence.

“Irrespective of our findings, the results will provide valuable information for drug policy development,” Ms Mushashi claims. “For instance, if our findings show that a reduction in generic drug price improved patient adherence, it would suggest that provinces consider further price reductions to improve the health of those with high cholesterol and cardiovascular disease.”

PopData will facilitate access to PharmaNet data for the project.

Page last revised: March 30, 2016