COPD Patients in US Often Skip Medications for This and Other Conditions, Study Says

Patrícia Silva, PhD avatar

by Patrícia Silva, PhD |

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medications and patient use

People with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) often have other chronic conditions, like heart disease, and those who are poor about keeping  up with treatments for these comorbidites are also less likely to adhere to their COPD medications, according to results of a U.S. study conducted by Boehringer Ingelheim and Humana.

The study,  “Association between adherence to medications for COPD and medications for other chronic conditions in COPD patients,” published in the International Journal of COPD, also found that non-adherence in this group of COPD patients reached almost 80 percent.

COPD cannot be cured, but medications exist to treat symptoms and reduce the risk of exacerbations, or sudden onset of symptoms that can lead to emergency hospitalizations.

“Because people living with COPD are frequently diagnosed with another chronic disease, such as cardiovascular disease or diabetes, we designed this new study to explore the relationship between adherence to daily medicines for these other diseases and adherence to daily maintenance medicines for COPD,” Phil Schwab, study co-author and investigator at Humana, said in a press release.

The authors suggested that several factors affect medication adherence. Such factors potentially include the lack of coordination in healthcare services, or behavioral and socioeconomic characteristics of the patient population, such as low health literacy, low-income, or forgetfulness.

In the study, data from 14,117 COPD patients with chronic comorbidities (average age of 69.9 years) were assessed; 40.9 percent were males and 79.2 percent were found to be non-adherent to COPD medications.

Age and sex were not found to significantly affect adherence, but those most likely not to regularly use prescribed medications also had a greater number of other chronic diseases and usually skipped flu vaccinations by choice or lack of access. People being treated for other conditions with insulins, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs), and antidepressants were also among those least likely to take their COPD treatments on a regular schedule.

The largest number of non-adherent patients were in the South compared to other regions of the country.

Overall, the findings suggest that adherence to COPD medications is low, and that non-adherence to these medications is related to non-adherence to non-COPD medications. These results also imply that the need to take medications prescribed for comorbid conditions does not adversely impact adherence to COPD medications, since those who do follow their medication prescription follow it regardless of how many medications they take.

“These findings are important, because they help guide physicians on how best to support COPD patients with historically low adherence in taking their medications so they can achieve optimal health outcomes,” said Andrew Renda, MD, MPH, Humana’s Bold Goal Director. “Rather than focus on the number and type of comorbidities with COPD, holistic adherence improvement efforts should address access, affordability, and most importantly, education on how these medications improve symptoms and quality of life while reducing the risk of exacerbations.”