UC Davis Agricultural and Resource Economics

Danea Horn, University of California, Davis

From Prevention to Treatment: Prescription Medication and Health Behavior

Date and Location

Thursday, October 28, 2021, 4:10 PM - 5:30 PM
Online Meeting, Zoom


The efficacy of medication may be lower than clinical expectations due to adjustments in perceived risk that cause changes in behaviors, a phenomenon known as risk compensation. The FDA approval of new classes of drugs to treat high blood pressure and high cholesterol in 1973 is leveraged to identify the effect of medication availability on nonsmoking, adherence to a diet, and body mass index. I find that medication approval significantly decreases the probability of engaging in healthy behaviors, evidence of risk compensation. Once a diagnosis of cardiovascular disease (CVD) is received, a patient has updated information about the state of her health which may induce the adoption of healthy behaviors. For smoking, a diagnosis of CVD does partially attenuate the risk-compensation effect of medication. After medication is approved, individuals at high risk of CVD have increased take-up – an indication that risk screening is implemented. Also, a CVD diagnosis prompts medication use as a complement to multiple healthy behaviors. The evidence demonstrates the importance of promoting healthy behaviors to a broad population and increasing risk-factor salience prior to diagnosis.

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