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Half Not Taking Meds Properly Resulting in Quarter Million Deaths and Half a Trillion in Expenses

Posted Nov 08 2013 9:00am

The National Council on Patient Information and Education released a sobering report “Accelerating Progress in Prescription Medicine Adherence: The Adherence Action Agenda that shows that half of the estimated 187 million Americans who take one or more prescription medicines—or up to 93.5 million patients—do not take these drugs as prescribed.

Studies show that 20% to 30% of prescriptions are never filled by patients, while 50%–60% of medications to treat chronic disease are not taken as prescribed.

This results in approximately 125,000 preventable deaths a year and many as 40% of nursing home admissions in people with type 2 diabetes. Research estimates that $105 billion is wasted annually on medication therapy non-adherence of which 69%—or $72.5 billion—is spent on hospitalizations. Other findings suggest that it costs an estimated $290 billion per year in avoidable medical spending and lost work productivity, translating into 13 percent of total health care expenditures.

Today, 27% of Americans are living with multiple chronic conditions (MCC) and 68% of Medicare beneficiaries are being treated for at least two concurrent chronic illnesses—or 21.4 million individuals. It is now estimated that 76% of Americans aged 60 and over use two or more prescription drugs and 37% take five or more. MCC accounts for 66% of the nation’s health expenditures and is a major source of Medicare spending. Of the $300 billion Medicare spent in 2010 on health care, the price tag for treating the 14% of beneficiaries with six or more MCC was over $140 billion. Almost two-thirds (60%) of these patients required hospitalization, accounting for 55% of Medicare’s total spending on hospitalizations.
Based on these findings, NCPIE’s new Adherence Action Agenda advocates for: 1.    Establish medicine adherence as a priority goal of all federal and state efforts designed to reduce the burden of multiple chronic conditions. 2.    Establish the role of the patient navigator within the care team to help patients with multiple chronic conditions navigate the health care system and take their prescription medicines as prescribed. 3.    Promote clinical management approaches that are tailored to the specific needs and circumstances of individuals with multiple chronic conditions. 4.    Incentivize the entire health care system to incorporate adherence education and medication support as part of routine care for MCC patients. 5.    Eliminate the barriers that impede the ability of patients with multiple chronic conditions to refill their prescription medicines. 6.    Reduce the cost-sharing barriers for patients by lowering or eliminating patient copayments for prescription medicines used to treat the most common chronic diseases. 7.    Accelerate the adoption of new health information technologies that promote medication adherence. 8.    Establish medication adherence as a measure for the accreditation of healthcare professional educational programs. 9.    Address multiple chronic conditions and optimal medication management approaches in treatment guidelines. 10. Stimulate rigorous research on treating people with multiple chronic conditions.
DO THIS: Stay healthy and avoid medications. If needed take them as prescribed. And always consult with your physician. NOT THAT: Don’t refill prescriptions without talking to your physician first. Don’t take more than the prescribed dose. Don’t take expired medications.

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