COVID-19: Impact on medication adherence in 2020


2020 was dominated by the COVID-19 pandemic, and it will continue to dominate healthcare conversations this year. Looking back, how did the pandemic affect medication adherence? And what lessons were learned?

Patient concerns about ability to pay

Back in April, Pharmacy Times noted concerns from pharmacists and other healthcare experts that patients, especially those with underlying conditions, would stop taking their medications as they should. The concern was that people who became unemployed due to COVID-19 would no longer be able to pay for their medications.

Patients avoid in-person doctor visits

In June, Health Leaders reported that coronavirus fear added a new barrier to medication adherence. People had been avoiding ERs and doctors’ offices for routine checkups, and a report from the CDC reported that vaccinations for children dropped significantly since the beginning of the pandemic, driving concerns that there would be an increase in vaccine-preventable diseases.

Providers transition to telehealth

As patients were unable to see their physicians in person during the height of the pandemic, getting their prescriptions and staying on their medications became more difficult. The American Medical Association offered advice on using digital tools such as telehealth and remote patient monitoring. Some patients, particularly the elderly, struggled using telehealth and experienced gaps in care. But by November 2020, STAT News reported that more patients were returning to in-person appointments.

Pharma supply chain shows fragility

Another problem exposed by the pandemic that may have affected adherence was the fragility of the U.S. supply chain for pharmaceuticals, as shutdowns of China manufacturing facilities caused shortages in medications. CIDRAP reported in October 2020 that 29 (72.5%) of the 40 critical drugs for COVID-19 patients experienced shortages, according to the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP).

Some adherence rates improved

While the number of vaccinations for childhood diseases went down during the pandemic, the American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology reported in May that asthma and COPD medication adherence had increased during the COVID-19 pandemic. In a study published in The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology: In Practice, researchers found that controller inhaler adherence increased 14.5% between January and March 2020. They attributed the increase to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic guidelines regarding medication use, as well as patients’ desire to avoid unnecessary visits to providers.

AllazoHealth offered pandemic adherence insights

In a report, the company noted that during the pandemic there was an 18% increase in medications filled before their due date, motivated by patients’ fears of being unable to fill their prescriptions. But they also found that the existing gap in medication fill rate between high-risk and low-risk patients had increased.

To keep patients adherent as the pandemic continues, the company recommended that pharmacists and payers intensify their engagement with the high-risk patients who need the most support.

About AllazoHealth

AllazoHealth uses artificial intelligence to make a positive impact on individual patient behavior. We optimize medication adherence and quality outcomes for pharmaceutical companies, payers, and pharmacies. Our AI engine targets individual patients with the right intervention and content at the right time.

Building on our success in adherence, we have expanded our implementation of AI to include closing gaps in care and improving therapy initiation.

See AllazoHealth in Action

Schedule a live demo and find out how AllazoHealth:

  • Uses AI to make a positive impact on individual patient behavior
  • Optimizes adherence programs for pharma, payers and pharmacies
  • Personalizes patient engagement to deliver better, more cost-effective outcomes