Loyalty programs encourage patients to take and stay on medications, study shows

Pharmacy loyalty programs pay off in health benefits.


Patients are more likely—at least indirectly—to take prescription medications if they use a pharmacy that has an inducement program, such as a loyalty program, new research reveals.

Scot Simpson, a professor in the Faculty of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, used data from 2008 to 2014 on prescriptions for statins, a class of cholesterol-lowering medications.

He found that the odds of stopping the medication were 12 per cent lower if patients filled their medications at pharmacies with an inducement program.

“That 12 per cent is a significant difference,” said Simpson. “We can say from this study on statin medication that filling prescriptions at pharmacies with a loyalty program is associated with a lower risk of stopping the medication within the first year.”

Simpson also looked at metformin, a diabetes medication, and found the same results.

”The data told us that if you obtained your metformin refills from a pharmacy with a loyalty program, you were more likely to stay on it for the first year. We also found that obtaining refills from pharmacies with a loyalty program was associated with a higher likelihood of getting a second prescription refill and that your overall adherence rate was better,” he said.

Simpson also looked at whether the risk of cardiovascular disease is higher if you stopped taking medications and whether inducement programs played a significant role.

His data confirmed previous research showing an association between stopping statins and a higher risk of cardiovascular disease. However, his analysis found no difference on clinical outcomes (hospitalization or death) according to where the patient obtained their medication refills. And use of pharmacies with a loyalty program did not have any direct impact on health outcomes.

Simpson said his study didn’t examine many factors that could influence the results—such as the pharmacy’s location,the store environment, professional services provided and trust in the pharmacist—and acknowledged that it will be important to continue examining the impact of loyalty programs and testing the questions his study raises.

“What we saw with this data is that an inducement program may provide an incentive that encourages people to stick with their medications,” said Simpson. “With better adherence to medication, we know that there is a link to improved health outcomes. So there may be an indirect health benefit that we couldn’t see or analyze in the current study.”

The study was published in the Annals of Pharmacotherapy.