The Value of "Taking as Prescribed"

The Value of "Taking as Prescribed"

03.18.11 | By

Last week, FDA announced a new campaign to address poor adherence to medicines. The agency will provide grant funding to the National Consumers League to support efforts to raise awareness of the importance of medication adherence and effect change in behaviors to increase adherence and improve health outcomes.

In this blog series on drug costs and spending, we've looked at independent methodologies for assessing the price of medicines and spending trends for prescription drugs. It's also useful to take a closer look at adherence.

Successful treatment of disease with prescription medicines requires consistent use of the medicines as prescribed. Yet numerous studies show that medicines commonly are not used as directed, leading to poor clinical outcomes, higher health care costs and lost productivity.

Poor adherence to medication is a particularly troubling problem for patients with chronic conditions, for whom medications can dramatically improve health. Chronic conditions such as heart disease, asthma, cancer and diabetes are among the greatest threats to health, and treating patients with chronic conditions accounts for $3 out of every $4 spent on medical care in the U.S.

Many of the human and economic costs associated with non-adherence can be avoided, making improving patient adherence one of the best opportunities to get better results and greater value from our health care system.

According to researchers at Harvard University, "efforts to stimulate better prescribing of, and adherence to, essential medications will increase value by improving population health, averting costly emergency department visits and hospitalizations, and improving quality of life and productivity."

Recent research, unveiled in an article in Health Affairs, supports these claims. Researchers found that better adherence to medicines among patients with congestive heart failure, hypertension, diabetes or dyslipidemia resulted in significant reductions in emergency department visits and hospitalizations, generating substantial health care cost savings.

According to the authors, "Adherent patients spent more on prescription medicines than non-adherent patients, but the additional spending was more than offset by substantial reductions in total health care spending among those with good adherence."

This gets to the heart of the value of medicines, when taken as prescribed.

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