July 23, 2014
Looks Matter in Medication Adherence by MI Patients

Boston—While the active ingredients may be the same, variations in pills’ outward appearance affects adherence to cardiovascular drugs, according to a new study.

The study by researchers from Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School was published recently in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

The article’s background notes that generic medications often are prescribed for treatment of cardiovascular disease because of reduced expense to patients and payers. Despite therapeutic interchangeability, however, pill appearance can vary between generic and brand-name versions of a drug or among manufacturers.

Concerned about medication adherence rates, researchers sought to determine whether changes in appearance affected patient adherence to medications.

Researchers focused on 11,000 patients between 2006 and 2011 who had been discharged from the hospital after myocardial infarction and who were prescribed generic prescriptions, including beta blockers, angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors, angiotensin II–receptor blockers, or statins. Results indicate that for heart patients who had stopped taking their medications for at least a month, there was a 30% greater likelihood that a change in pill color or shape had preceded the discontinuation, as determined by the two refills preceding the lapse.

The study also found that cosmetic changes in generic heart medications are common, with about a third of patients having a change in pill shape or color during the study. Statins had the most changes in appearance, with beta blockers having the fewest, according to the report.

Study authors urge pharmacists and other health professionals to proactively warn patients about the potential for appearance changes and reassure them that even if the pill looks different, the medication is the same.

U.S. Pharmacist Social Connect