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January 4, 2016

HQC researchers join forces with multi-province MS medication study

According to the World Health Organization, around half of all people who are prescribed medication do not take it properly. Medication adherence is extremely important for the effective management of many chronic illnesses, including multiple sclerosis (MS).*

New research supported by the Health Quality Council (HQC) has found medication adherence is actually quite high among MS patients in Manitoba and British Columbia, and is especially so in Saskatchewan.

In Saskatchewan, optimal adherence (meaning patients take their medication correctly 80% or more of the time) was achieved for 80.3% of patients after one year. When all three provinces were combined, 76.4% of patients had optimal adherence after the first year.  

The study, funded by the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, also found medication adherence for MS is higher than what was previously reported for other chronic diseases (such as rheumatoid arthritis and epilepsy), which is typically around 50%.

Dr. Charity Evans, Assistant Professor of Pharmacy at the University of Saskatchewan, co-led the research (with Dr. Helen Tremlett of the University of British Columbia) on medication adherence rates across the three Canadian provinces. HQC provided access to data on Saskatchewan patients, and experienced HQC research analyst Xinya Lu did the analyses.

“By working with HQC, our team was able to analyze population-level data from across Saskatchewan and then combine our data with what we found in the other two provinces,” says Evans. “It’s the first study in North America to look at MS medication adherence using population-based data.”

The findings are good news because, in general, research has shown that individuals with higher medication adherence often have fewer health problems, lower hospitalization rates, and a lower risk of death.

Born and raised in Regina, Evans says, “Most people in Saskatchewan either have a family member or know someone with MS. This is one of the reasons why it is really important we study MS, and why continued research into this disease can impact the health of our province’s residents.”

The study’s findings of higher-than-expected medication adherence have prompted new research questions that Evans and her colleagues are beginning to explore, potentially through further collaboration with HQC.  

“As part of its mandate, HQC participates in research projects that have the potential to directly impact patients and their families. This research is an important first step for improving outcomes for MS patients in Saskatchewan,” says Tracey Sherin, HQC’s Director, Analysis and Research Partnerships. “We hope the results of HQC’s collaboration with Dr. Evans and her team encourages further research into both MS and the medication adherence of patients with a chronic disease.”

This study is just one example of how HQC, along with its academic and health system partners, is working to support patient-oriented research in Saskatchewan. Bridging and integrating academic research with the province’s health system enables research to quickly influence day-to-day health care practices.

“HQC has been collaborating with our academic and health system partners to develop a provincial research support unit – the Saskatchewan Centre for Patient-Oriented Research (SCPOR) – to build greater capacity for research that directly impacts the quality of health care for Saskatchewan residents,” says Gary Teare, HQC’s Chief Executive Officer.

* MS is a chronic disease involving the brain and spinal cord, and it is the most common cause of non-traumatic neurological disability in young adults. Symptoms of the disease are variable and can include severe fatigue, coordination problems, and cognitive issues. Canada has one of the highest rates of MS in the world, with an estimated 100,000 Canadians affected.

Photo: Dr. Charity Evans, Assistant Professor of Pharmacy at the University of Saskatchewan