Persistent low adherence to hypertension treatment in Kyrgyzstan: How can we understand the role of drug affordability?

Health Policy Plan. 2016 Dec;31(10):1384-1390. doi: 10.1093/heapol/czw080. Epub 2016 Jun 16.


It is well known that cardiovascular diseases (CVD) are a growing cause of mortality and morbidity in low-and middle-income countries (LMIC). While hypertension (HTN), a leading risk factor for CVD, can be easily managed with widely available medicines, there is a huge gap in treatment for HTN in many LMIC. One such country is Kyrgyzstan, where HTN is a major public health concern and adherence to medication is low. The reasons for low adherence in Kyrgyzstan are not well understood, but some evidence suggests that HTN medicines may be unaffordable for low-income families, resulting in inequitable access to HTN treatment. With data from the 2010 Kyrgyzstan Integrated Household Survey, we estimate the prevalence and factors associated with adherence to HTN medication in Kyrgyzstan. We then investigate the hypothesis that affordability may be an important factor in adherence to HTN medication. Using the coarsened exact matching approach, we estimate the economic burden faced by households with at least one member with elevated blood pressure (EBP) in Kyrgyzstan and their risk of catastrophic spending on health care. We find that EBP households have significantly higher total expenditure on health, as well as on medicines, and are more likely to experience catastrophic health spending, suggesting that out-of-pocket expenditure for EBP may be prohibitively expensive for the poorest in Kyrgyzstan. Our findings also reveal a high prevalence of self-medication (i.e. purchasing and using medication without a doctor's prescription), and increased expenditure due to self-medication, among those with EBP. Our research suggests that affordability of HTN medicines may be an important factor in low adherence to treatment in Kyrgyzstan. Low affordability may be due partly to the prescription of medicines that are not reimbursable under the national drug benefit plan, but more research is needed to identify solutions to the affordability problem.

Keywords: Access to medications; Kyrgyzstan; coarsened exact matching; health care equity; non-communicable diseases; out-of-pocket payments.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Developing Countries
  • Female
  • Health Expenditures / statistics & numerical data*
  • Healthcare Disparities / trends
  • Humans
  • Hypertension / drug therapy*
  • Kyrgyzstan
  • Male
  • Medication Adherence / statistics & numerical data*
  • Middle Aged
  • Poverty
  • Surveys and Questionnaires