Generic Drugs and Adherence

  • Patients who start on generic cholesterol medication can have better outcomes than those who take the brand name.

Do patients who start on a generic drug for high cholesterol have better outcomes than those who begin therapy with a brand name drug? A new study released by the CVS Health Research Institute and published in the Annals of Internal Medicine says yes. The study, done in collaboration with researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, is the first to show that patients who started on a generic statin were more likely to be adherent to their medication than those starting on a branded drug, and had an eight percent lower rate of cardiovascular events and death.

CVS Health Research Institute Study is First to Show Improved Medication Adherence and Health Outcomes for Generic Statins 

Statin drugs for treating high cholesterol are some of the most frequently prescribed drugs in the U.S. and have been shown to be very effective. However, drugs are only effective if they are taken as directed and research has shown that approximately half of patients discontinue statin therapy within the first year.  While medication adherence is complex, one commonly cited reason for stopping a medication is cost. This research is the first to show a link between using a lower cost generic drug with improved adherence and better health outcomes.

Researchers gathered data for the study by reviewing two years’ worth of medical and pharmacy claims for more than 90,000 Medicare beneficiaries. They measured adherence to statin therapy and resulting health outcomes to determine the impact of using a generic medication on hospitalizations for acute coronary syndromes or stroke and death.

This analysis is part of a multi-year research collaboration with Brigham and Women's Hospital to better understand patient behavior, particularly around medication adherence.