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Study: Medication Misuse, Lack of Adherence Adding $200 Billion in Healthcare Costs

June 19, 2013
by Gabriel Perna
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Medication misuse and lack of adherence is a $200 billion problem in the U.S. healthcare system, according to a new report from the IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics, a Danbury, C.T. consulting firm. The report, Avoidable Costs in U.S. Healthcare: The $200 Billion Opportunity from Using Medicines More Responsibly, says that this problem represents eight percent of the country’s annual healthcare expenditures, much of which comes through avoidable readmissions and outpatient treatments.

Researchers at IMS looked at six areas, which they say, contribute to this problem. Non adherence to medications leads the way. While progress has been made in this area (up 3-4 percent from 2009 for patients with hypertension, hyperlipidemia and diabetes), it still constitutes an estimated $105 billion in annual avoidable healthcare costs. The researchers say analytics and collaboration among stakeholders have helped understand why patients don’t adhere to medications, as well as understanding the effectiveness of intervention programs.

Another area which has caused this issue, according to the IMS researchers, is delayed evidence-based treatment practice. The researchers found that this causes $40 billion in avoidable costs. Other areas looked at IMS were misuse of antibiotics, medication errors, suboptimal use of generics, and mismanaged polypharmacy in older adults.

“Those avoidable costs could pay for the healthcare of more than 24 million currently uninsured U.S. citizens. Reaching a meaningful level of consensus and alignment among stakeholders, based on measured and proven success models, is a key step to unlocking the $200 billion opportunity identified in our study,” Murray Aitken, executive director, IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics, said in a statement.

One possible solution to the medication adherence problem is automated reminders. A 2012 study from the Oakland, Calif.-based integrated system, Kaiser Permanente, patients who receive automatic reminders are 1.6 times more likely to fill prescriptions for cholesterol-lowering statins than those who don’t get one.

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