(HealthDay News) — Nonwhite heart attack survivors are more likely to take prescribed medicines if their copayments are eliminated, according to a new study published in the May issue of Health Affairs.

According to a news release from Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, it’s estimated that additional health care costs due to patients not taking recommended medications are as high as $290 billion a year in the United States. Niteesh Choudhry, MD, PhD, from Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and colleagues analyzed data from a clinical trial and found that nonwhite heart attack patients had much lower rates of medication adherence and much higher rates of subsequent heart problems and treatment than white patients.

The study researchers found that eliminating drug copayments boosted medication adherence in both white and nonwhite patients. Among nonwhite patients, it also reduced rates of future heart problems and treatments by 35% and total health care spending by 70%. This effect on heart health and spending wasn’t seen in white patients.

“African-Americans and Hispanics with cardiovascular disease are up to 40% less likely than whites to receive secondary prevention therapies, such as aspirin and beta-blockers,” Choudhry said in a statement. “Our research demonstrates that not only does eliminating medication copayments following a heart attack positively impact the disparity we know exists in cardiovascular care and improve outcomes for nonwhite patients, it also has the potential to dramatically reduce health care spending for this high-risk group.”

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