Eliminating nonadherence to medications could help solve the Medicare insolvency crisis
“Curing nonadherence could pay for the health care of 44.8 million Americans.” –Express Scripts 2011 Drug Trend Report
According to the Express Scripts 2011 Drug Trend Report, 30 percent of adults with high cholesterol do not take their medications as prescribed. For those with high blood pressure or heart disease, 31 percent do not adhere to their therapy. An even greater number of patients with diabetes—43 percent–are nonadherent.
These are very disturbing numbers, especially when Medicare is allegedly on the verge of bankruptcy.
Nonadherence—not taking drugs as prescribed by the doctor—is our nation’s most costly health condition. According to Express Scripts, in 2011, medication nonadherence cost the U.S. health care system over $317 billion in treating medical complications that could have been avoided if patients had taken their medication. This amount is actually higher than the total cost of treating diabetes, congestive heart failure, and cancer combined.
Patients who are nonadherent and do not take their medications the right way are more likely to experience:
• Long-term complications
• More emergency room visits
• Unnecessary hospital admissions
• Additional physician visits and lab tests, and
• Other related medical expenses
What you can do if you are not taking your drugs correctly
Most people are nonadherent because of behavioral factors, such as forgetfulness, inattentiveness, or procrastination. For example, based on findings in the 2011 Drug Trend Report, 39 percent of nonadherent patients said they just forgot to take their medication while 30 percent said they didn’t renew or refill their prescription.
If you find yourself in one of the categories above, you may want to consider asking your Medicare prescription drug plan if it offers refill reminder alerts (by cell phone or email) or automatic prescription renewal programs with mail order. If you have cut back or stopped taking certain medications because of high costs, ask your Part D plan about lower-cost medication alternatives or lower-cost pharmacy services such as home delivery. If you are eligible, you should also take advantage of your plan’s Medication Therapy Management (MTM) program, which I’ll talk more about next time.