Medication adherence leads to lower healthcare costs

Patients with one or more of four chronic diseases who take their medications as prescribed may save the healthcare system as much as $7,800 per patient annually, according to the findings of a CVS Caremark study analyzing annual pharmacy and medical costs over a three-year period.

The study findings revealed robust reductions in emergency department visits and in-patient hospital days from medication adherence. By avoiding those costly events, there were substantial savings in overall healthcare costs. The study, “Medication Adherence Leads to Lower Health Care Use and Costs Despite Increased Drug Spending,” was released in the January 2011 issue of Health Affairs.

Company researchers 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, according to Troyen Brennan, EVP and chief medical officer of CVS Caremark and a study author.

Among the disease-specific findings are:

  • People with congestive heart failure spent $39,076 on average annually and had an average of 11.9 days in the hospital. Those with congestive heart failure were older, averaging 77 years of age;

  • Diabetes costs per patient on average were $17,955 annually, and these patients had an average of 4.26 days in the hospital;

  • Hypertension patients spent $14,813 on average annually and had 3.29 days on average in the hospital; and

  • The annual spend for a person being treated for dyslipidemia was $12,688 on average. Hospital stays for these patients were 2.24 days on average.

Pharmacy costs for the patients ranged from $2,867 to $3,780 per year.

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