Patients not taking medications cost $300B

Depending on which company you listen to, lack of prescription medication adherence costs between $250 billion and $300 billion annually. 

Pharmacy companies Express Scripts and CVS Caremark each recently released their own studies focusing on wasted medicine. Express Scripts' report, which was released in April, determined that patients not taking their prescribed medication cost roughly $258 billion per year in ER and doctor visits, as well as inpatient hospitalizations, USA Today reports. 

CVS Caremark, in conjunction with Harvard University and Brigham and Women's Hospital, both in Boston, focused primarily on the adherence patterns of care providers and support relatives. The CVS Caremark-Harvard study found that 45 percent of such people ignore their own medication needs to focus on treating their loved one, with costs cited as one of the main reasons. The study was published this week in the Journal of the American Pharmacists Association (JAPhA). CVS also estimated that overall nonadherence costs the U.S. healthcare system $300 billion per year. 

Troyen Brennan, executive vice president and chief medical officer with CVS Caremark, and a coauthor of the latter study, said that to combat such a trend, doctors must do a better job of identifying caregivers. "In addition, pharmacists are uniquely positioned to intervene and encourage caregivers to take their medicine because the caregiver is often the person picking up medications for both family members and themselves," he said, according to a statement.

The authors of the Express Scripts study said that mail-order prescriptions also have helped to curb the problem. "Home delivery can remove $88 billion in waste [through] improved drug costs, generics, and higher adherence rates," Bob Nease, chief scientist with Express Scripts, told USA Today

Although both companies have a stake in patients purchasing and/or taking their prescription medication, the dollar figures are similar to findings from a 2009 New England Healthcare Institute report. 

To learn more:
- read this CVS Caremark announcement
- here's the JAPhA study abstract
- check out the Express Scripts report (.pdf)
- read the USA Today article
- here's a related story from Drug Store News