Why Medication Adherence Is a Big Problem

Lack of medication adherence has a significant cost associated with it, as well as causing adverse healthcare outcomes.

In the US, at least 50% of the population (over 133 million people) lives with at least one chronic disease condition. Since lack of medication adherence invariably leads to problems such as unnecessary disease progression, disease complications, reduced functional abilities, a lower quality of life, and even premature death, poor adherence has been estimated to cost up to $177 billion annually in total direct and indirect health care costs.

In a report by the Quintiles IMS Institute on avoidable healthcare costs in the U.S., it was demonstrated that six disease areas (congestive heart failure, HIV, osteoporosis, hypertension, diabetes and hypercholesterolemia) accounted for $105 billion in annual avoidable costs from non-adherence to medication treatment.

And this is not just a US only problem – the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that, on a worldwide basis, only about 50 percent of patients typically take their medicines as prescribed.

Multiple studies have confirmed the benefits of medication adherence including the ones listed earlier. A rigorous study was conducted recently looking at cost data by condition. That study calculated average annual medical savings, per patient annually, of $8, 881 in congestive heart failure, $4, 337 in hypertension, $4, 413 in diabetes, and $1,860 in dyslipidemia.

These savings were after offsetting for the increased pharmacy spend associated with being adherent; the increased pharmacy spend is because increased adherence means more medications purchased. A study by the American Heart Association (AHA) showed that those who filled none of their discharge prescriptions within 120 days after myocardial infarction (MI) had an 80% increased chance of death and those who filled only some of their prescriptions had a 44% increased chance of death compared with those who filled the majority of their prescriptions.

Medication non-adherence is a big problem — one that healthcare professionals must work to solve. It costs lives, reduces the quality of life and costs real dollars in the form of hospital re-admissions and unnecessary disease progression.

Sources: Quintiles IMS Institute and American Heart Association Journal