Study States that U.S. Medication Adherence Could Save Billions

June 21, 2013 – If medicines were used more responsibly by doctors and patients, the United States could save roughly $200 billion that are wasted each year on avoidable hospital admissions, outpatient treatments, prescription drugs and emergency room visits, according to a recent study conducted by IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics.

The report, “Avoidable Costs in U.S. Healthcare: The $200 Billion Opportunity from Using Medicines More Responsibly,” finds that of the six areas identified as contributing to at least $213 billion in unnecessary costs, medication adherence leads the pack, with avoidable costs of $105.4 billion. The other five areas are: delayed evidence-based treatment practice ($39.5 billion), antibiotic misuse ($35.1 billion), medication errors ($20 billion), suboptimal generics use ($11.9 billion), and mismanaged polypharmacy in the elderly ($1.3 billion).

Medication adherence, which occurs when patients do not take their medicines appropriately or at all, can result in costly complications that often are more expensive than the medicines and worsen health outcomes, according to the study. The report also notes that hypercholesterolemia and diabetes have the biggest impact on avoidable medication adherence costs and that of the $105 billion wasted due to medication therapy nonadherence, in 2012, 69 percent was spent on hospitalizations.

“This study demonstrates that innovative drugs are part of the solution to one of the biggest public policy challenges of our generation: delivering effective and efficient healthcare to our citizens,” said Coalition for Healthcare Communication Executive Director John Kamp.  “To maintain a healthy nation, our citizens must get appropriate health care, and then must adhere to their drug regimens – generic and branded.”

With the body of knowledge regarding improved medication adherence growing, improvements in this area are becoming a reality. The report states that the scale on interventions in this area “is greater as technology enables more patients to be reached and high-risk patients to be identified and proactive intervention approaches [to be] developed.”

Improvements in all six areas “are possible only through collaboration among multiple healthcare stakeholders: providers, pharmacists, patients, payers, pharmaceutical manufacturers and policymakers,” the study report states, adding that the “most effective and innovative approaches being taken to address any of the six areas of avoidable costs cannot be planned or implemented single-handedly.”

Bottom line, Kamp said, “Policy makers must recognize that although drugs are not cheap, when used appropriately they are often cheaper and more effective than alternatives.”

To request a copy of the report, go to: