WellPoint’s outcomes research subsidiary, HealthCore, conducted this study by combining medical and pharmacy claims data of more than 55,000 members from eight health plans who had used one of six types of asthma controller medications. Researchers also incorporated findings from quality of life surveys from 800 patients using asthma controller medications.
Before the study, inhalers were the preferred first-line controller medications for patients, and were found to be more effective in controlling patients’ asthma symptoms in clinical trials. HealthCore’s study revealed that oral controller medications had better patient adherence in “real world” settings, as patients found the oral pill format easier to take regularly and with the correct dosage. The oral controllers were therefore more effective than inhalers in controlling asthma for the patients studied.
HealthCore’s study was an important complement to traditional clinical trial research because it showed how patients adhere differently to various medicines in real life, outside of a controlled environment.
As a result of the HealthCore study, WellPoint’s affiliated health plans maintained coverage for inhaler medications, but removed a prior authorization requirement for the oral controllers to help members with asthma to obtain the oral controllers more easily. The study was published in the August 2009 issue of Mayo Clinic Proceedings, expanding its findings to the broader medical community.