Impact of financial medication assistance on medication adherence: a systematic review.


BACKGROUND: The prevalence of financial medication assistance (FMA), including patient assistance programs, coupons/copayment cards, vouchers, discount cards, and programs/pharmacy services that help patients apply for such programs, has increased. The impact of FMA on medication adherence and persistence has not been synthesized. OBJECTIVE: The primary objective of this study was to review published studies evaluating the impact of FMA on the three phases of medication adherence (initiation [or primary adherence], implementation [or secondary adherence], and discontinuation) and persistence. Among these studies, the secondary objective was to report the impact of FMA on patient out-of-pocket costs and clinical outcomes. METHODS: A systematic review was performed using MEDLINE and Web of Science. RESULTS: Of 656 articles identified, eight studies met all inclusion criteria. Seven studies examined FMA for medications treating cardiovascular diseases, while one study assessed FMA for cancer medications. Among included studies, FMA had a positive impact on medication adherence or persistence, and most measured this impact over one year or less. Of the three phases of medication adherence, implementation (5 of 8) was most commonly reported, followed by discontinuation (3 of 8), and then initiation (1 of 8). Regarding implementation, users of FMA had a higher mean medication possession ratio (MPR) than nonusers, ranging from 7 to 18 percentage points higher. The percentage of patients who discontinued medication was 7 percentage points lower in users of FMA versus nonusers for cardiovascular disease states. In one cancer study, FMA had a larger impact on initiation than discontinuation, ie, compared to nonusers, users of FMA were less likely to abandon an initial prescription (risk ratio= 0.12, 95% confidence interval [CI]: 0.08-0.18), and this effect was larger than the decreased likelihood of discontinuing the medication (hazard ratio = 0.76, 95% CI: 0.66-0.88). In 3 of 8 studies reporting on medication persistence, FMA increased the odds of medication persistence for one year ranged from 11% to 47%, depending on the study. In addition to adherence, half of the studies reported on FMA impacts on patient out-of-pocket costs and 3 of 8 studies reported on clinical outcomes. Impacts on patient out-of-pocket costs were mixed; two studies reported that out-of-pocket costs were higher for users of a coupon or a voucher versus nonusers, one study reported the opposite, and one study reported null effects. Impacts on clinical outcomes were either positive or null. CONCLUSIONS: We found that FMA has positive impacts on all phases of medication adherence as well as medication persistence over one year. Future studies should assess whether FMA has differential impacts based on phase of medication adherence and report on its longer-term (ie, beyond one year) impacts on medication adherence. DISCLOSURES: This work was sponsored by a grant from Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA). PhRMA had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript. Hung reports past employment by Blue Cross Blue Shield Association and CVS Health and a grant from PhRMA outside of the submitted work. Zullig reports research funding from Proteus Digital Health and the PhRMA Foundation. consulting fees from Novartis. Reed reports receiving research support from Abbott Vascular, AstraZeneca, Janssen Research & Development, Monteris, PhRMA Foundation, and TESARO and consulting fees from Sanofi/Regeneron, NovoNordisk, SVC Systems, and Minomic International, Inc. Bosworth reports research grants from the PhRMA Foundation, Proteus Digital Health, Otsuka, Novo Nordisk, Sanofi, Improved Patient Outcomes, Boehinger Ingelheim, NIH, and VA, as well as consulting fees from Sanofi, Novartis, Otsuka, Abbott, Xcenda, Preventric Diagnostics, and the Medicines Company. The other authors have nothing to report. This work was presented as a poster presentation at the ESPACOMP Annual Meeting in November 2020.





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Publication Info

Hung, Anna, Dan V Blalock, Julie Miller, Jaime McDermott, Hannah Wessler, Megan M Oakes, Shelby D Reed, Hayden B Bosworth, et al. (2021). Impact of financial medication assistance on medication adherence: a systematic review. Journal of managed care & specialty pharmacy, 27(7). pp. 924–935. 10.18553/jmcp.2021.27.7.924 Retrieved from

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Anna Hung

Assistant Professor in Population Health Sciences

Anna Hung, PharmD, PhD, MS is a pharmacist and health services researcher interested in payer and patient decision making related to pharmacy benefits. Previously, she collaborated with the Defense Health Agency to evaluate the budgetary impact of their antidiabetic drug formulary changes. She has also worked with a variety of managed care organizations to assess their drug utilization and clinical management programs. Her methodological research interests include health care cost evaluations, quasi-experimental study designs, and stated preference research.

Dr. Hung received her Doctor of Pharmacy, Master of Science, and Doctor of Philosophy from the University of Maryland. Her PhD is in pharmaceutical health services research, with concentrations in pharmacoeconomics, comparative effectiveness research, and patient-centered outcomes research. Prior to joining the Department of Population Health Sciences, she completed a post-doctoral fellowship at the Duke Clinical Research Institute and served as Co-Chief Fellow.


Daniel Blalock

Associate Consulting Professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences

I am a behavioral health researcher with a background in Clinical Psychology and Experimental Psychology.  My research interests include broad processes of behavior change and self-regulation as well as psychometric measurement and research methods/statistics.  My specific research endeavors include 1) the measurement and behavior change applicability of constructs related to self-control, 2) measurement and interventions to improve self-regulatory health behaviors including medication adherence and substance use, and 3) measure development and psychometrics as related to self-reported and patient-reported outcomes.


Shelby Derene Reed

Professor in Population Health Sciences

Shelby D. Reed, PhD, is Professor in the Departments of Population Health Sciences and Medicine at Duke University’s School of Medicine.  She is the director of the Center for Informing Health Decisions and Therapeutic Area leader for Population Health Sciences at the Duke Clinical Research Institute (DCRI).  She also is core faculty at the Duke-Margolis Center for Health Policy. Dr. Reed has over 20 years of experience leading multidisciplinary health outcomes research studies. Dr. Reed has extensive expertise in designing and conducting trial-based and model-based cost-effectiveness analyses of diagnostics, drugs and patient-centered interventions. In 2016, she co-founded the Preference Evaluation Research (PrefER) Group at the DCRI, and she currently serves as its director. She and the group are frequently sought to conduct stated-preference studies to inform regulatory decisions, health policy, care delivery, value assessment and clinical decision making with applied projects spanning a wide range of therapeutic areas. She served as President for ISPOR in 2017-2018, and she currently is Past-Chair of the Society’s Health Science Policy Council.



Areas of expertise: Health Economics, Health Measurement, Stated Preference Research, Health Policy, and Health Services Research


Hayden Barry Bosworth

Professor in Population Health Sciences

Dr. Bosworth is a health services researcher and Deputy Director of the Center of Innovation to Accelerate Discovery and Practice Transformation (ADAPT)  at the Durham VA Medical Center. He is also Vice Chair of Education and Professor of Population Health Sciences. He is also a Professor of Medicine, Psychiatry, and Nursing at Duke University Medical Center and Adjunct Professor in Health Policy and Administration at the School of Public Health at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. His research interests comprise three overarching areas of research: 1) clinical research that provides knowledge for improving patients’ treatment adherence and self-management in chronic care; 2) translation research to improve access to quality of care; and 3) eliminate health care disparities. 

Dr. Bosworth is the recipient of an American Heart Association established investigator award, the 2013 VA Undersecretary Award for Outstanding Achievement in Health Services Research (The annual award is the highest honor for VA health services researchers), and a VA Senior Career Scientist Award. In terms of self-management, Dr. Bosworth has expertise developing interventions to improve health behaviors related to hypertension, coronary artery disease, and depression, and has been developing and implementing tailored patient interventions to reduce the burden of other chronic diseases. These trials focus on motivating individuals to initiate health behaviors and sustaining them long term and use members of the healthcare team, particularly pharmacists and nurses. He has been the Principal Investigator of over 30 trials resulting in over 400 peer reviewed publications and four books. This work has been or is being implemented in multiple arenas including Medicaid of North Carolina, private payers, The United Kingdom National Health System Direct, Kaiser Health care system, and the Veterans Affairs.

Areas of Expertise: Health Behavior, Health Services Research, Implementation Science, Health Measurement, and Health Policy


Leah L Zullig

Professor in Population Health Sciences

Leah L. Zullig, PhD, MPH is a health services researcher and an implementation scientist. She is a Professor in the Duke Department of Population Health Sciences and an investigator with the Center of Innovation to Accelerate Discovery and Practice Transformation (ADAPT) at the Durham Veterans Affairs Health Care System. Dr. Zullig’s overarching research interests address three domains: improving cancer care delivery and quality; promoting cancer survivorship and chronic disease management; and improving medication adherence. Throughout these three area of foci Dr. Zullig uses an implementation science lens with the goal of providing equitable care for all by implementing evidence-based practices in a variety of health care environments. She has authored over 150 peer-reviewed publications. 

Dr. Zullig completed her BS in Health Promotion, her MPH in Public Health Administration, and her PhD in Health Policy.

Areas of expertise: Implementation Science, Health Measurement, Health Policy, Health Behavior, Telehealth, and Health Services Research

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