A spoonful of cash helps the medicine go down…

One-third to one-half of all patients do not take medication as prescribed, and up to one-quarter never fill prescriptions at all, experts say. Such lapses fuel more than $100 billion dollars in health costs annually because those patients often get sicker. So, a solution? Let’s offer cash incentives to get people to take their meds!

According to this article in the New York Times, one example was in Philadelphia, where people were prescribed warfarin, an anti-blood-clot medication, can win $10 or $100 each day they take the drug — a kind of lottery using a computerized pillbox to record if they took the medicine and whether they won that day. CVS Caremark began by discounting copayments for employees of some corporations in its drug plans, to encourage prescription filling, and is studying “the ‘I’ll pay you $10 a month to be adherent’ approach, the lottery approach,” and other incentives, said Dr. Troy Brennan, the chief medical officer.

Initial reports from various programs seem to look promising.  I do wonder how it is that our health care system has enough money to give out bribes but can’t lower the price of health care itself. As much as it would be very nice to get cash incentives to take my meds on a regular basis, I hate to think that we need to lure people with money in order to remember/be adherent to take their drugs. But if such a program indeed lowers overall health care costs and improves people’s health, maybe it’s a good thing.

Just a thought: in countries with universal health care coverage, what’s the rate of prescription drug compliance? Does that make a difference?

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