Rx Minute: Adherence to Medicines Reduces Overall Health Care Costs

Adherence to Medicines Reduces Overall Health Care Costs

A new study published in Health Affairs finds that for patients with congestive heart failure, hypertension, diabetes, or dyslipidemia (lipid disorders including high cholesterol), adherence to medicines leads to lower total health care cost. While many studies have shown an association between taking medicines as prescribed and lower costs, this study uses a more robust methodology to mathematically account for other variables at play.

Better adherence to medicines resulted in increased drug spending, but significant reductions in emergency department visits and inpatient hospital days offset this spending and resulted in substantial health care cost savings. For example, adherent patients with congestive heart failure spent an additional $1,058 annually on medicines, but reduced their medical spending by $8,881, for a total offset of $7,823. Net of increased pharmacy costs, total savings for adherent hypertensive patients were $3,908, while adherent diabetes patients saved $4,413 and dyslipidemia patients who were adherent saved $1,258.

The average benefit-cost ratio for congestive heart failure was 8:1, hypertension was 10:1, diabetes was 7:1, and dyslipidemia was 3:1. Adherence effects were particularly pronounced for patients age 65 and older.

The study authors concluded, “Our results indicate that despite higher pharmaceutical spending, medication adherence by patients with chronic vascular disease provides substantial medical savings, as a result of reductions in hospitalization and emergency department use.

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