Diabetic patients with high deductibles may discontinue medication, study finds

Diabetic patients who switch to a high-deductible health plan may be more likely to leave name-brand medication unfilled, according to a study funded by Merck and published by JAMA Network Open.

For the study, researchers affiliated with the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, IBM Watson Health, Merck and Harvard Medical School in Boston evaluated the association between switching from a health plan without a high deductible to one with a high deductible and whether patients discontinued their antihyperglycemic medication. Antihyperglycemic medication is used to lower glucose levels in the blood. The researchers also assessed whether the association changed when patients used generic versus branded medication.

Using claims from IBM's MarketScan databases, the researchers analyzed nearly 3,000 patients with Type 2 diabetes using at least one antihyperglycemic medication covered by a commercial insurer. The study authors found no difference in follow-up discontinuation rates for the medications between patients with and without high deductibles. However, patients covered by a high-deductible health plan that used branded medication were more likely to leave their prescriptions unfilled.

"These findings suggest switching to an [high-deductible health plan] is associated with discontinuation specifically of branded medications," the authors said. "Unintended health consequences may result and should be considered by employers making healthcare benefit decisions."

To read the full report, click here.

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