Study Seeks to Improve Medication Adherence, Reduce Hypertension Disparities

“Although available therapies are highly effective in preventing adverse consequences of hypertension, nonadherence to medications is common"

Using a $2.7 million grant from the National Institutes of Health, researchers in the University of Arizona R. Ken Coit College of Pharmacy are leading a study to test an intervention designed to increase medication adherence rates among diverse patients with hypertension.

Hypertension is widely prevalent in the U.S. and a critical risk factor for stroke, heart disease, kidney disease and premature death. Hypertension fuels racial and ethnic disparities in cardiovascular disease, with 44% of African American patients diagnosed with hypertension compared with 28% of white Americans.

“Although available therapies are highly effective in preventing adverse consequences of hypertension, nonadherence to medications is common, especially among minorities and low-income groups,” said Jeannie Lee, PharmD, BCPS, BCGP, FASHP, an associate professor in the  UArizona Coit College of Pharmacy.

Previous research by Dr. Lee and team found low medication adherence rates among patients with hypertension at the Caring Health Center, a community health center in Springfield, Massachusetts. Only 48% of the study participants, who represented five racial and ethnic groups, had adequate medication adherence. More than 1 in 5 participants reported barriers to medication access such as cost and transportation, but these challenges were far more common among African American and Latino participants.

The new study will test an intervention in African American, Latino, and Vietnamese patients with hypertension who are at high risk for nonadherence. The intervention will include a medication therapy management pharmacist working in tandem with a community health worker to optimize medication regimens and address barriers to adherence through culturally tailored education and patient navigation.

“Our hope is that pharmacist-led medication therapy management programs that incorporate community health workers as cultural brokers will improve medication adherence, leading to positive blood pressure outcomes and better health for patients,” Dr. Lee said.

In addition to Dr. Lee, the research team includes Josephine Korchmaros, PhD, director of the UArizona Southwest Institute for Research on Women in the UArizona College of Social and Behavioral Sciences, Susan Shaw, PhD, director of the Center for Community Health Equity Research and associate professor in the Department of Health Promotion and Policy at the University of Massachusetts and mPI on this grant, and Cristina Huebner Torres, PhD, chief research and population health officer at the Caring Health Center.

“I’m excited about the potential this research has on reducing hypertension disparities among diverse, low-income patients with care by interprofessional teams led by pharmacists,” said Coit College of Pharmacy Dean Rick G. Schnellmann, PhD.

This study is funded by the National Institutes of Health (R01HL151772).

This story was originally published by University of Arizona Health Sciences.