HealthDay News – Nearly five million Medicare prescription drug enrollees aren’t taking their antihypertensive medication as directed, according to research published in the September 13 early-release issue of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC)Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

An analysis of 18.5 million Medicare Part D enrollees in 2014 found that 26.3% either skipped doses of their antihypertensive medication or stopped taking the drugs entirely, according to the CDC.

“That’s particularly troubling, because other research indicates that up to 25% of new prescriptions for blood pressure medicine are never even filled in the first place,” Tom Frieden, MD, MPH, director of the CDC, said during a press briefing. “Of those prescribed those regimens, maybe a quarter don’t even start them, and now we’re finding that another quarter don’t continue them.”


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The percentage of drug non-adherence varies among racial and ethnic groups — more than one-third of blacks (37.5%), Hispanics (33.8%), and American-Indians (38.8%) vs roughly one quarter of whites (24.3%) or Asian/Pacific Islanders (26.3%). Patients living in the Southern United States had the highest rate of non-adherence in the nation, Dr Frieden noted. Medication class also made a difference, with diuretics abandoned more often than other drugs. 

Lower-income individuals also were less likely to take their antihypertensive medication as directed. Of patients with a low-income subsidy, 32.1% did not adhere to their regimen, compared with one-quarter (25.4%) of patients with no subsidy.

Dr Frieden called on doctors and health systems to help encourage adherence by making antihypertensive medication regimens as easy-to-follow as possible, and checking in with patients to see if they’re taking their medication as directed.

Reference

Ritchey M, Chang A, Powers C, et al. Vital signs: disparities in antihypertensive medication nonadherence among medicare part D beneficiaries — United States, 2014. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. Published September 13, 2016. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.15585/mmwr.mm6536e1.