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Medication adherence lowers costs

A new study shows that medication adherence can significantly cut costs when it comes to managing chronic disease

A new study in the journal Health Affairs shows that medication adherence can significantly cut costs when it comes to managing chronic diseases. The study, which was conducted by researchers from the pharmacy benefits company CVS Caremark, found that patients with any of four chronic diseases who adhered to their prescription regimens had markedly lower healthcare spending, fewer emergency room visits, and fewer days spent in the hospital.

The savings more than offset the higher spending on medicines, the study noted. Adherence reduced average annual healthcare spending by $7,823 per chronic heart failure patient, $3,908 per hypertension patient, $3,756 per diabetes patient, and $1,258 per dyslipidaemia patient.

"Given the widespread policy debate over how best to bend the healthcare cost curve downward, it is surprising that medication adherence by patients with chronic diseases does not feature more prominently in the conversation," according to the authors, who were led by Christopher Roebuck, director of health economics and strategic research at CVS Caremark.

The authors also suggest many previous studies have shown a link between medication adherence and cost savings, but they have often been dismissed because the observational design of such research makes it difficult to prove an actual causal relationship. However, the new study uses mathematical methods that eliminate confounding variables and so better establishes a causal link, the authors maintain.

"As this study confirms, many of the costs associated with nonadherence to medicines can be avoided; indeed improving patient adherence is one of the best opportunities to achieve better results and greater value from our healthcare system," Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) senior vice president Wes Metheny said in a statement on the publication.

"Closing the adherence gap is an important component to the success of initiatives to improve the quality of healthcare in the US, encourage better chronic care management and promote better overall health outcomes."

11th January 2011

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