Would you be more likely to take medicine for a chronic health condition if you didn't have to pay for it?

Research from scientists at Brigham and Women's Hospital has shown that, for many people with heart disease, the answer to this question is a surprising, ‘no.'

The study found that giving free prescriptions to people who have had a heart attack didn't increase the likelihood that they would take them.

5,855 people enrolled in Aetna health insurance programs participated in the study, which was sponsored by the insurance company. Each of the study participants had recently spent time in the hospital recovering from their heart attack and was prescribed an individualized medication regimen to manage their condition.

The results indicated that prescription adherence only increased by 4 to 6 percent even though participants were given free prescriptions for commonly prescribed heart medications such as statins, ACE inhibitors, and beta-blockers. Not surprisingly, those people who took their medication as prescribed experienced a measurable decrease in their risk for stroke, and repeat heart attacks.

But, despite the obvious health benefits of prescription adherence and not having to pay a dime for their medications, over half of the people in the study failed to follow their medication plan after a major cardiac event.

In response to their findings, the study authors point out that, while financial considerations are important, future research should examine other potential causes of prescription non-adherence. They cite complicated regimens, a lack of knowledge and individual opinions as barriers to following a prescribed medication plan.