Drug adherence an increasing issue for plan members, sponsors, finds survey

While 55 per cent of Canadian plan members take at least one medication on a regular basis, this increases to 70 per cent among those with a chronic condition and/or chronic pain and 87 per cent among those in poor health, according to the 2020 Sanofi Canada health-care survey.

In addition, 23 per cent of plan members with a chronic condition and/or chronic pain and 48 per cent of plan members in poor health take three or more medications. And 43 per cent of plan members who take at least one medication agreed they sometimes don’t take their medication, increasing to 61 per cent among those aged 18 to 34.

The biggest reason cited was forgetfulness (41 per cent), followed by the perception that the patient doesn’t need it because they feel fine (24 per cent) or they ran out (20 per cent). Convenience may also be a factor, with 69 per cent of plan members regularly taking at least one medication agreeing it’s inconvenient to go to their physician to get their prescriptions renewed.

Read: A look at pharmacists’ role in supporting drug adherence

“Interestingly, job satisfaction is among factors that appear to influence results,” said Adrian Ebrahimi, account executive for corporate accounts at SSQ Insurance Life Insurance Co., during a webinar last week. “Non-adherence increases to 66 per cent among those who are not satisfied with their job. Younger plan members and those experiencing high levels of stress are also more non-adherent.”

The survey also found 52 per cent of plan members who don’t always take their medication indicated this occurs at least a quarter of the time; this frequency is significant because it crosses the threshold for non-adherence (which is 20 per cent), at which point the drug may not work as effectively as it could.

Among plan sponsor respondents, 54 per cent are concerned that the overall cost of their drug plan is negatively impacted by plan members who aren’t taking their medications properly, comparable to last year’s result at 48 per cent. Employers with 500 or more employees are more concerned (59 per cent), as are employers in Quebec (60 per cent) and those that receive reports on top disease states (54 per cent).

“Non-adherence to prescribed medication can have significant health consequences and yet some plan members are running out of their medications,” said Ebrahimi. “They’re telling us it’s inconvenient to go to their doctors for renewals and they are willing to go to the pharmacist instead or to use virtual care. Let’s connect those dots and close this gap on medication adherence.”

Read: Panel explores solutions to boost drug adherence