Introduction: Copayments are intended to decrease third party expenditure on pharmaceuticals, particularly those regarded as less essential. However, copayments are associated with decreased use of all medicines. Publicly insured populations encompass some vulnerable patient groups such as older individuals and low income groups, who may be especially susceptible to medication non-adherence when required to pay. Non-adherence has potential consequences of increased morbidity and costs elsewhere in the system.
Objective: To quantify the risk of non-adherence to prescribed medicines in publicly insured populations exposed to copayments.
Methods: The population of interest consisted of cohorts who received public health insurance. The intervention was the introduction of, or an increase, in copayment. The outcome was non-adherence to medications, evaluated using objective measures. Eight electronic databases and the grey literature were systematically searched for relevant articles, along with hand searches of references in review articles and the included studies. Studies were quality appraised using modified EPOC and EHPPH checklists. A random effects model was used to generate the meta-analysis in RevMan v5.1. Statistical heterogeneity was assessed using the I-2 test; p>0.1 indicated a lack of heterogeneity.
Results: Seven out of 41 studies met the inclusion criteria. Five studies contributed more than 1 result to the meta-analysis. The meta-analysis included 199, 996 people overall; 74, 236 people in the copayment group and 125,760 people in the non-copayment group. Average age was 71.75years. In the copayment group, (verses the non-copayment group), the odds ratio for non-adherence was 1.11 (95% CI 1.09-1.14; P = <0.00001). An acceptable level of heterogeneity at I-2 = 7%, (p = 0.37) was observed.
Conclusion: This meta-analysis showed an 11% increased odds of non-adherence to medicines in publicly insured populations where copayments for medicines are necessary. Policy-makers should be wary of potential negative clinical outcomes resulting from non-adherence, and also possible knock-on economic repercussions.