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Study: Reducing Diabetes Drug Costs Improves Health Outcomes

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A study from Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Institute also found that patients with diabetes who were enrolled in a value-based medication benefit increased their use of antidiabetic medications.

Reducing out-of-pocket costs for patients with diabetes, particularly those with lower incomes, can potentially lead to enhanced health outcomes, finds a study conducted by researchers at the Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Institute. Published in the Feb. 9, 2023 edition of JAMA Health Forum, the study titled "Acute Diabetes Complications After Transition to a Value-Based Medication Benefit" illustrates the impact of reducing medication expenses on diabetes management.

Diabetes requires consistent treatment with antidiabetic agents, antihypertensives, and lipid-lowering drugs to mitigate acute complications such as bacterial infections, neurovascular events, acute coronary disease, and diabetic ketoacidosis. However, high out-of-pocket, according to a study last year in American Journal of Managed Care. This is especially true those with limited financial resources, from adhering to their prescribed medication regimens, leading to poor health outcomes.

To address this issue, some employers have introduced preventive drug lists (PDL) in their insurance plans, allowing enrollees to access essential medications at reduced out-of-pocket expenses. Researchers conducted a comprehensive analysis to evaluate the effectiveness of PDLs in improving health outcomes for individuals with diabetes.

The study analyzed data from a national cohort of commercial health plan members aged 12 to 64 with diabetes. Comparing members whose employers adopted PDLs to those whose employers did not, the researchers observed notable differences in medication utilization and acute diabetes complications. Following the implementation of PDLs, members showed increased use of antidiabetic medications, coupled with an 8.4% reduction in preventable diabetes complication days across the board. Notably, individuals from lower-income areas experienced a 10.2% decrease in complication days compared to the control group.

Researchers stated that the study provides compelling evidence that reducing medication costs can lead to tangible improvements in health outcomes, particularly for vulnerable populations grappling with financial constraints.

While previous research has explored the impact of reduced medication cost-sharing on various health parameters, this study offers new insights by demonstrating the potential benefits of value-based medication benefits for patients with chronic illnesses like diabetes. The results underscore the importance of targeted interventions to alleviate financial burdens on individuals with lower incomes, thereby enhancing their overall health and well-being. By implementing strategies to reduce out-of-pocket costs, employers and policymakers can contribute to improved health outcomes and mitigate the burden of preventable complications, especially among economically disadvantaged populations, according to the researchers.

This study first appeared on Medical Economics.

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