Improving patient adherence saves money

The news headline says it all: CVS Caremark Study Finds Medication Adherence Leads to Lower Health Care Costs, Even After Accounting for Increased Prescription Drug Spending.

The study analyzed pharmacy and medical claims data of 135,000 patients with congestive heart failure, diabetes, hypertension and dyslipidemia to determine the direct effect of adherence on costs. The savings found were impressive for those adherent to their medication:

  • $7,823 for congestive heart failure
  • $3,756 for diabetes
  • $3,908 for hypertension
  • $1,258 for dyslipidemia or high cholesterol

Of course, the corollary to this cost savings is that more was spent on medication. It is therefore surely a triple win – the insurer cuts its cost, the pharmaceutical makes more money, and the patient gets better health.

However, all to often, the pharmaceutical industry asks “is there an ROI to improving adherence?” To me, the question is rhetorical (or perhaps non-sensical) because clearly getting patients to take more of their medication (as the doctor prescribed) will make the pharmaceutical more money in more fulfilled prescriptions.

I think the better question would be — how do you get patients to become more adherent.? And, yet, while improving adherence has been done, by and large the industry remains skeptical. Why?

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