Study Shows the Impact Synchronization Programs Have on Medication Adherence

Kaitlynn Ely

Older adults who are prescribed many medications that require frequent trips to the pharmacy are more likely to not refill their prescriptions on time, but patients who participate in medication synchronization programs have improved adherence to cardiovascular medications, according to a study published in Health Affairs.

Medication synchronization programs are increasingly becoming more popular as they simplify the process of picking up medications, refilling prescriptions, and making pharmacist appointments. The impact that synchronization programs have on continuous adherence to cardiovascular medications for fee-for-service Medicare beneficiaries treating conditions of hypertension, hyperlipidemia, and diabetes is evaluated in the study. These conditions are some of the most common among Medicare enrollees.

Two programs offered by 2 regional pharmacies in different areas of the United States were examined. Thrifty White Pharmacy in the Midwest has about 100 pharmacies while Publix Super Markets serves 7 states in the Southeast. In order to participate in a synchronized program at Thrifty White, a patient would have to be prescribed at least 2 medications for Thrifty White. Publix, on the other hand, required a patient to be taking 3 or more medications. Patients enrolled in either of the synchronization programs between July 2011 to June 2014 were included in the study. Other patients living in the same area who were not participating in a synchronization program, but who were prescribed cardiovascular medication were used as a control group.

The results showed that while synchronized patients had an adherence rate of 8% more than control patients, there was not a significant difference in major adverse cardiovascular events among synchronized and control patients. There were also higher adherence rates under the Thrifty White program than the Publix program. The results from the study are similar to the success rates of mail-order refill synchronization programs.

"The intervention had the largest effect on adherence among patients with lower baseline adherence," the authors added.

They concluded that medication synchronization, when it becomes more popular, will lead to consistent medication adherence. Cost of medication, which is another barrier to adherence, is another determinant of health among those who are retired or live in low-income areas that must be addressed in the future.

“This study demonstrates the potential of such programs to have a lasting impact on patient outcomes," the authors concluded. "Future research will need to evaluate the programs’ benefit in other populations, the duration of effects, and whether benefits translate into cost savings for patients and insurers.”
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