Getting the Most out of Medicines

Getting the Most out of Medicines

02.10.11 | By Kate Connors

Yesterday I referred to the impact of improved adherence to medicines on overall healthcare spending.

A recent study in Health Affairs reaffirmed this message, finding significantly lower healthcare costs for adherent patients living with one of four major chronic conditions - even after taking into account that these patients actually spent more on medicines. Specifically, adherence reduced average annual healthcare spending by nearly $8,000 for patients with congestive heart failure, by nearly $4,000 each for patients with hypertension or diabetes, and more than $1,000 for patients with dyslipidemia. In the end, every additional dollar spent on medicines generated between $3 and $10 in overall savings.

Those numbers got a lot of attention when the article came out. But the bigger story is how some of those savings came about: by lowering the number of emergency room visits and the number of days patients spent in the hospital.

Avoiding an emergency room visit for you or a loved one, or bringing them home from the hospital sooner? Well, you just can't put a price tag on that.

Unfortunately, as outlined in a new report recently released by PhRMA, almost one-third of patients stop taking their medicine earlier than directed, and overall, nearly 75 percent of adults are nonadherent in one or more ways, such as not filling a new prescription or taking less than the dose recommended by the physician.

Treating patients with chronic conditions accounts for $3 out of every $4 spent on healthcare in the U.S., but many of these conditions can be controlled thanks to advances in medical care. Ultimately, adherence to treatment regimens is the key to enjoying the full benefit of those advances.

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