Man using a daily pill holder to take medication

Why Medication Adherence is Important for People at a High Risk for COVID-19  

People with underlying medical conditions like diabetes, cardiovascular disease, chronic lung disease and asthma – just to name a few – are at a higher risk for becoming severely ill from the new coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

It’s important that these individuals continue to take their medications as prescribed by their doctor to keep their conditions under control, said Alex Lin, PharmD, a clinical pharmacist at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. You can prevent the need to go to the hospital due to complications from your condition and protect yourself from COVID-19 complications that are more severe in patients with underlying medical conditions.

Due to the ever-evolving nature of the COVID-19 pandemic, health officials and scientists continue to make new medical discoveries about the virus. This means advice and recommendations may change by the day – or even by the hour, Lin said.

Early in the pandemic some scientific publications suggested taking certain medications for cardiovascular disease would put them at a higher risk for COVID-19; or cause them to have worse outcomes if they did contract it. There is no conclusive data on whether that is in fact true, Lin said.

For patients with cardiovascular disease taking ACE inhibitors or ARB medications (e.g., lisinopril or losartan) there has been concern about these medications contributing to a higher risk for COVID-19 infection. However, the American College of Cardiology, American Heart Association and Heart Failure Society of America recommend patients do not interrupt their treatment and should continue taking these maintenance medications. Currently there is no experimental or clinical data demonstrating either beneficial or worse outcomes with these medications in COVID-19 or among COVID-19 patients with a history of cardiovascular disease treated with such agents.

Not taking medications as prescribed puts individuals with underlying medical conditions at a higher risk for an adverse medical event.

Here is additional information about chronic conditions that could put individuals at a higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19:

Additionally, individuals with asthma or COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) should continue to take their maintenance medications as prescribed. These individuals have respiratory systems that are already weakened due to their chronic illness – and COVID-19 attacks the respiratory system. There is no evidence that taking inhaled corticosteroids should be avoided, according to guidelines set out by the American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology and Global Institute for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease.

Before changing your prescribed medication regimen, first talk to your doctor about your concerns and follow their advice. They have up-to-date information about what the latest recommendations are.

Telemedicine may be a good way to connect with your health care providers during the pandemic to consult them about your medications. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and Blue Care Network are providing no-cost medical and behavioral health telehealth services through June 30. Learn more about how to access telehealth here.

Additionally, Blue Cross and Blue Care Network are waiving early medication refill limits on 30-day and 90-day prescription maintenance medications during the pandemic to ensure members can access their prescriptions without interruption and are able to visit the pharmacy less often. Many retail pharmacies are also offering free home delivery or using a mail order pharmacy can be an option to ensure you have adequate supply of medications while minimizing trips outside the home.

This information is current as of June 16, 2020. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan is continuously monitoring information and recommendations as they are made during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Be assured that Blue Cross is closely monitoring all claims activity to ensure our members are not in jeopardy of running out of needed medications.

This content has been reviewed and approved by Dr. S. George Kipa, deputy chief medical officer at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. 

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Photo credit: Kristen Prahl

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