Neighborhoods Influence Whether or Not Folks Take Their Heart Failure Meds

By   |  December 18, 2023

By Ernie Mundell HealthDay Reporter  |  Copyright © 2023 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

MONDAY, Dec. 15, 2023 (HealthDay News) -- Heart failure is a major killer.

However, a new study finds that heart failure patients living in poorer neighborhoods are much less likely to pick up lifesaving meds from local pharmacies, compared to patients living in more affluent locales.

The reasons behind the disparity aren't clear, said senior study author Samrachana Adhikari.

However, "now that we have uncovered this disparity at a neighborhood level, we next need to explore additional barriers patients may be facing, such as the cost of drugs, language barriers and discrimination by pharmacy staff,” said Adhikari, an associate professor in the department of population health at NYU Langone.

In the study, researchers collected 2020-2021 prescription records and addresses for people diagnosed with heart failure in NYU Langone's hospital system. Over 6,200 patients diagnosed with heart failure were included in the study.

The researchers then calculated the rate at which patients living in various neighborhoods filled their prescriptions over a six-month period.

Sorting neighborhoods into four distinct levels based on residents' income/socieconomic status, Adhikari's group found that while 40% of people in the most affluent neighborhoods failed to fill their prescription, that number rose to more than half (52%) in the poorest neighborhoods.

Put another way, patients living in poorer neighborhoods were 11% more likely to fail to pick up their meds.

The findings were published Dec. 14 in the journal JAMA Network Open.

When it comes to medication adherence, even a small difference like this can raise patients' risk for death, the research team said.

That's especially true for folks battling heart failure, a condition that often arises after a heart is damaged, as happens with a heart attack. These damaged hearts lose their ability to properly pump blood.

However, a special four-drug combo (called "quadruple therapy") can cut the risk of death in heart failure patients by 400% -- if patients stick with it, the Langone group noted.

So, the new findings “support targeting interventions that have already been shown to improve medication adherence," said study co-author Dr. Saul Blecker, an associate professor in the departments of population health and medicine there.

Interventions that can help folks fill their prescriptions include "patient education programs and frequent follow-up with healthcare professionals,” Blecker said in an NYU Langone news release.

More information

Find out more about heart failure at the American Heart Association.

SOURCE: NYU Langone, news release, Dec. 14, 2023