New CDC Report Highlights Significant Gap in BP Medication Adherence

Roughly five million Medicare Part D enrollees age 65 and older are not properly taking their medication to control hypertension, increasing their risk of cardiovascular disease, stroke, kidney disease, and death, according to a new Vital Signs report released Sept. 13 from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The report analyzes data from more than 18.5 million people enrolled in Medicare Advantage or Original Medicare with Medicare Part D prescription drug coverage during 2014. CDC and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) researchers looked at disparities in beneficiary adherence rates based on factors including geography, race/ethnicity, gender, income status and medication class.

Key findings from report include:

  • About 5 million Medicare Part D enrollees ages 65 or older are not taking their blood pressure medicine as directed (i.e., skipping doses or have stopped taking it altogether)
  • The percentage of Medicare Part D enrollees not taking their blood pressure medicine is higher among certain racial/ethnic groups, contributing to higher risks of heart attack, stroke, kidney disease, and death in these populations
  • Southern U.S. states, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands have the highest overall rates of not taking blood pressure medicines as directed; North Dakota, Wisconsin, and Minnesota have the highest rates of people who do take their medicine as directed

“While the Medicare prescription drug program has increased the affordability and accessibility of prescription drugs, more can be done to encourage Medicare beneficiaries to take their medications as directed,” said Sean Cavanaugh, CMS deputy administrator and director of the Center for Medicare. “Medicare will continue to work with prescription drug plans to educate enrollees about the importance of taking their blood pressure medications as prescribed so that they can lower their risk for heart disease and stroke.”

“[This report] highlights what a big problem medication adherence is among some heart disease patients,” said Mathew Maurer, MD, FACC, chair of ACC’s Cardiology Geriatric Cardiology Council. “Not taking medication as prescribed can be dangerous and life-threatening, and it is the leading cause of hospitalizations, more frequent doctor visit and higher medical costs. The ACC encourages all people being treated for heart disease to take their medications in proper doses, the right way and at the right time. Patients should be honest with their doctors if they are having trouble sticking to their medication regimen for any reason; there are sometimes ways to alter a medication schedule and there are programs available to help with medication costs. We want to ensure patients are getting the life-saving treatment they need.” 

Clinical Topics: Prevention, Hypertension

Keywords: Antihypertensive Agents, Blood Pressure, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (U.S.), Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (U.S.), Drug Costs, Ethnic Groups, Geography, Heart Diseases, Hospitalization, Hypertension, Kidney Diseases, Medicaid, Medicare Part C, Medicare Part D, Medication Adherence, Myocardial Infarction, Prescription Drugs, Stroke

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