Older patients more likely stop heart meds when pharmacies close, study finds

When pharmacies close, older patients are less likely to take their heart medications as prescribed, a new study published in JAMA found.

For the study, researchers analyzed data from 3 million U.S. adults, ages 50 and older, who filled at least one prescription for statin drugs at a retail pharmacy between 2011 and 2016.

Investigators then compared prescription adherence of a cohort of 93,000 people who filled a prescription at a pharmacy that later closed against that of people whose pharmacy remained open.

Five key findings:

1. The heart patients taking statins whose pharmacies closed experienced "an immediate and significant decline in statin adherence" in the three months after the closure.

2. Nearly 24 percent of people who saw their pharmacy close failed to refill their statin prescription at any point during a 12-month period after the closure. This compares to 12.8 percent of those whose pharmacies remained open.

3. There were also significant declines even among patients who were "fully adherent" in the year before the pharmacy closed. In particular, among patients who were fully adherent, 15 percent stopped taking statins, compared to 3.5 percent of those whose pharmacies didn't close.

4. Declines in adherence, including discontinuation of medication altogether, were highest for people that used independent pharmacies that closed, filled all prescriptions at a single store or lived in low-access neighborhoods with fewer pharmacies.

5. The group least likely to experience a dip in adherence were people who regularly filled prescriptions at several different retail pharmacies in the area.

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