Mail-Order May Help People Stick to Med Regimens

THURSDAY Jan. 14, 2010 -- Using mail-order pharmacies makes it easier for people to stick with their doctor's prescribed medication regimens, a new study suggests.

Researchers analyzed medication refill data from 2006 and 2007 from 13,922 people with diabetes, high blood pressure or high cholesterol. Good adherence was defined as having prescribed medication on hand at least 80 percent of the time.

People who ordered their medications by mail were more likely to take them as prescribed by their doctors than were people who bought their medications at local pharmacies -- 84.7 percent vs. 76.9 percent, the study found. The results were consistent for medications used to control diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol.

Among the other findings:

  • About 24 percent of whites used mail-order more than two-thirds of the time, compared with 8 percent of Asian/Pacific Islanders, 5 percent of Hispanics, 4 percent of blacks and 8 percent of those of mixed race.
  • People who used mail-order pharmacies were more likely than those who used local pharmacies to have a financial incentive to fill prescriptions by mail (about 50 percent vs. 23 percent) and to live a farther from a local pharmacy (8 miles vs. nearly 7 miles).

"The field of medication adherence research typically focuses on patient factors for poor adherence, leading to a 'blame-the-patient' approach for non-adherence," the lead researcher, Dr. O. Kenrik Duru, an assistant professor in the division of general internal medicine and health services research at the David Geffen School of Medicine, University of California, Los Angeles, said in a university news release.

"Our work helps to place this issue in a larger perspective," Duru said. "Our findings indicate that mail-order pharmacies streamline the medication acquisition process, which is associated with better medication adherence."

The study appears online in the American Journal of Managed Care.

More information

The U.S. National Health Information Center offers advice on the safe use of medicines.

Posted: January 2010


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