Programs Try Cash Incentives To Get Forgetful Patients To Take Meds

The New York Times reports on a new approach to getting patients to take their medications consistently: financial incentives. "One-third to one-half of all patients do not take medication as prescribed, and up to one-quarter never fill prescriptions at all, experts say. Such lapses fuel more than $100 billion dollars in health costs annually because those patients often get sicker. Now, a controversial, and seemingly counterintuitive, effort to tackle the problem is gaining ground: paying people money to take medicine or to comply with prescribed treatment."

One program in Philadelphia offers patients taking warfarin, "an anti-blood-clot medication," the opportunity to "win $10 or $100 each day they take the drug. ... Skeptics question if payments can be coercive or harm doctor-patient relationships." Health insurer Aetna, however, "helped pay for part of the Philadelphia experiment," and has also "begun paying doctors bonuses for prescribing medication likely to prevent problems: beta blockers to prevent heart attacks, statins for diabetes sufferers" (Belluck, 6/13).

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