Study: Patient non-compliance with drugs costs $290B per year

People who don't take their medications as prescribed end up costing the health system up to $290 billion per year in increased medical costs, according to a Boston-based health policy group that is pushing to make the issue part of the national health reform debate.

According to a report by the New England Healthcare Institute, from one-third to one-half of patients in the U.S. don't take their medications as their physicians ordered. Some don't pick up or renew prescriptions, some don't take their meds in the proper doses or on schedule, and some stop taking them completely. Their reasons include cost, side effects, confusion about the regimen and language barriers.

More worrisome is that people who have chronic illnesses like diabetes or high blood pressure are actually less likely to take their meds as ordered than those people treated for an urgent problem. This has serious consequences: diabetic and heart patients who take meds correctly have a 7 percent death rate, while those who don't have a 12 percent death rate.

Better education on disease and medications, case management and pharmacist assistance, and simplifying drug regimes all seem to help with compliance, the group says.

To learn more about this issue:
- read this piece from The Boston Globe

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