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1 in 4 Medicare patients uses blood pressure drug incorrectly

Staff Writer |
Nearly 5 million Medicare prescription drug enrollees aren't taking their blood pressure medication as directed, increasing their risk of heart attack and stroke.

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An analysis of 18.5 million Medicare Part D enrollees in 2014 found that 26 percent either skipped doses of their blood pressure medication or stopped taking the drugs entirely, according to the study from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"That's particularly troubling, because other research indicates that up to 25 percent of new prescriptions for blood pressure medicine are never even filled in the first place," CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden said. "Of those prescribed those regimens, maybe a quarter don't even start them, and now we're finding that another quarter don't continue them."

Heart disease and stroke kill 800,000 people every year in the United States, accounting for about one out of every three deaths, Frieden said. Uncontrolled high blood pressure also has been associated with dementia and mental decline later in life, he added.

Seventy percent of U.S. adults ages 65 and older have high blood pressure (140/90 or higher), but just a little more than half have their blood pressure under control, according to the CDC.

Heart-healthy lifestyle changes can help, but eating right and exercising often aren't enough to bring blood pressure down to healthy levels for many people, Frieden said.

"Critically, medications will be necessary for the vast majority of people with high blood pressure, but they only work if they are taken," he said.

The percentage of drug non-adherence varies among racial and ethnic groups -- more than one-third of blacks, Hispanics and American Indians versus roughly one quarter of whites or Asian/Pacific Islanders, the CDC researchers found.

People living in the South - the so-called "Stroke Belt" - had the highest rate of non-adherence in the nation, Frieden noted.

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