Adults of 45 years and younger are not adherent to cholesterol-lowering medications

August 28, 2009

A study released by CVS Caremark found that more than 50 percent of patients under the age of 45 who are prescribed a medication to treat high cholesterol are not optimally adherent to their therapy.

A study released  by CVS Caremark found that more than 50 percent of patients under the age of 45 who are prescribed a medication to treat high cholesterol are not optimally adherent to their therapy. In fact, the data showed that 58 percent of adults between the ages of 18 and 34 are not taking their cholesterol-lowering medications as prescribed.

According to the National Institutes of Health's National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI), high cholesterol affects more than 65 million Americans. Because high cholesterol does not cause symptoms, individuals may not be aware that they are at increased risk of developing heart disease or experiencing a heart attack. September is National Cholesterol Education Month and a good time for people to have their cholesterol levels checked and take steps to lower their levels if they are high.

"This data illustrates that younger adults with high cholesterol are not taking their medication as prescribed, putting them at increased risk for developing heart disease, worsening their long-term clinical outcomes, and ultimately increasing the cost of their care," said Troyen A. Brennan, MD, MPH, executive vice president and chief medical officer, CVS Caremark. "CVS Caremark engages plan participants with chronic diseases, such as high cholesterol, by addressing barriers to evidence-based care.

The study examined adherence to cholesterol-lowering medications by evaluating de-identified data for more than 74,000 adult patients from the CVS Caremark Health Management Claims Database who incurred claims for a cholesterol-lowering medication between Jan. 1, 2008, and Dec. 31, 2008.

All study participants were continuously eligible for pharmacy benefits for the entire evaluation period.

Results found that only 42 percent of patients between the ages of 18 and 34 were optimally adherent to their medications, with a medication possession ratio (MPR) of greater than 80 percent. In addition, among those patients ages 35 to 44, only 50 percent were identified as optimally adherent to their cholesterol medication.

In the study, MPR was calculated using the DMAA methodology on pharmacy claims incurred by the study subjects. Patients with an MPR greater than or equal to 80 percent were considered optimally adherent to therapy. This analysis is an observational study only, and the results demonstrate a correlation between patients under age 45 and suboptimal adherence to cholesterol-lowering medications; however, as in most observational studies, the causal nature of this relationship cannot be determined, CVS said.