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Providing medication for free shows cost benefits, sticking to regimens: study

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Free access to medicine increases the likelihood that patients will adhere to taking it and reduces total health spending, researchers of a new study say.

The study, published in PLOS Medicine Friday, found that providing free access to essential medicines increases patient adherence to taking medication by 35 per cent and reduces total health spending by an average of over $1,000 per patient, per year.

Researchers from St. Michael’s Hospital of Unity Health Toronto, recruited 786 patients across nine primary care sites in Ontario who had reported they had cost-related issues for sticking with their medication regimen.

Study participants across the nine sites were separated into two groups: half received free medication via mail and the other half had their usual access to medications. Two years into the study, those with free medication adhered to their prescribed regimen 35 per cent more than the group with their usual access to medication and reduced their health-care costs, including hospitalization, by $1,222 a year.

“The cost savings are substantial, but they are less important than people simply being able to afford taking lifesaving medications,” said lead author of the study Dr. Nav Persaud in a release.

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