Seniors sought to participate in ACCESS study

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Researchers are looking for 5,000 Alberta seniors to participate in a study that would determine if the risk of cardiovascular outcomes in seniors could be reduced through eliminating insurance co-payments for medications.

The ACCESS study (assessing outcomes of enhanced chronic disease care through patient education and a value-based formulary study) is currently being conducted at the University of Calgary.

David Campbell, a member of the research team, said candidates must be over the age of 65 with an annual household income less than $50,000 and a high risk of cardiovascular events like heart attack or stroke.

He said patients who participate in the study would have a 50 per cent chance of receiving free preventive medications through their existing Alberta Blue Cross coverage for three years.

Eligible patients enrolled in the study would receive free preventive medications for diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and blood thinners.

Participants would also have access to a personalized education program aimed at helping seniors make health lifestyle choices and use preventive medications properly.

Campbell said the research team began accepting applications in December 2015 and will be for another year.

“There’s been lots of response but we’re still looking for more,” Campbell said.

He said only 40 per cent of people over the age of 45 in Western Canada with chronic conditions take their prescribed medications 100 per cent of the time.

The research team found there were two main reasons people weren’t taking their medications regularly – because of financial reasons or because they didn’t fully understand their conditions or how to manage them.

“We know that there are many Albertans who aren’t receiving or aren’t taking medications that are proven to be life saving,” Campbell said. “A lot of people on fixed incomes have a hard time affording their medications…We’re trying to show that by addressing those two barriers we can actually improve the outcomes for Albertans with chronic disease.”

He said seniors who have drug coverage through insurance still have to pay 30 per cent of the total drug cost.

“What we hypothesize is that by giving people free medications we’ll actually be able to help them be more adherent or take their medications more regularly,” Campbell said.

“And if people take their medications more regularly, we know that they’re less likely to have heart attacks and strokes.”

The ACCESS study is funded through the University of Calgary, Alberta Innovates-Health Solutions and Canadian Institutes of Health Research.

“We’re hopeful that if we’re able to successfully show differences in this trial that these would be policy interventions that would be taken up much more broadly and be available to all Albertans,” Campbell said.

Seniors who are interested in the study can call the ACCESS study centre at 1-844-944-8927.

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