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Does Medication Adherence Following a Copayment Increase Differ by Disease Burden?

Keywords: Cost sharing; medication adherence; diabetes; hypertension; veterans

Objectives: To compare changes in medication adherence between patients with high- or low-comorbidity burden after a copayment increase.

Methods: We conducted a retrospective observational study at four Veterans Affairs (VA) medical centers by comparing veterans with hypertension or diabetes required to pay copayments with propensity score-matched veterans exempt from copayments. Disease cohorts were stratified by Diagnostic Cost Group risk score: low- (<1) and high-comorbidity (>1) burden. Medication adherence from February 2001 to December 2003, constructed from VA pharmacy claims data based on the ReComp algorithm, were assessed using generalized estimating equations.

Results: Veterans with lower comorbidity were more responsive to a U.S.$5 copayment increase than higher comorbidity veterans. In the lower comorbidity groups, veterans with diabetes had a greater reduction in adherence than veterans with hypertension. Adherence trends were similar for copayment-exempt and nonexempt veterans with higher comorbidity.

Conclusion: Medication copayment increases are associated with different impacts for low- and high-risk patients. High-risk patients incur greater out-of-pocket costs from continued adherence, while low-risk patients put themselves at increased risk for adverse health events due to greater nonadherence.

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