Buying mail-order medications may encourage patients to stick to their doctor-prescribed medication regimen, new research suggests.
In a first-of-its-kind study, researchers from the University of California, Los Angeles, and Kaiser Permanente’s Division of Research in Oakland, Calif. found that patients with diabetes, high blood pressure or high cholesterol who ordered their medications by mail were more likely to take them as prescribed by their doctors than did patients who obtained them from a local pharmacy.
The study is published online in the American Journal of Managed Care.
“The field of medication adherence research typically focuses on patient factors for poor adherence, leading to a ‘blame the patient’ approach for non-adherence,” said O. Kenrik Duru, assistant professor in the division of general internal medicine and health services research at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, and the study’s lead researcher.
In a recent survey, Kaiser Permanente members listed mail-order pharmacy among the top benefits of managing their health via Kaiser Permanente’s personal health record, My Health Manager. More then 3.4 million members use My Health Manager to conveniently view lab results, refill prescriptions, schedule appointments and securely e-mail their doctors.
For this 12-month study, the researchers analyzed 2006 and 2007 medication refill data from 13,922 Kaiser Permanente members in Northern California. They defined “good adherence” as having medication available and on hand at least 80 percent of the time.
They found that 84.7 percent of patients who received their medications by mail at least two-thirds of the time stuck to their physician-prescribed regimen, versus 76.9 percent who picked up their medications at “brick and mortar” Kaiser Permanente pharmacies.
“The results were consistent for all three classes of medication, including medications to control diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol,” explained co-investigator Julie A. Schmittdiel, a research scientist with the Kaiser Permanente Division of Research.