NEW YORK A whole slew of health policy-makers, health-reform advocates, federal and state lawmakers, budget hawks and healthcare stakeholders — not to mention the Obama administration and the managed care industry — are desperately searching for ways to cut out-of-control healthcare spending and rein in the spiraling national deficit. But one of the biggest potential levers for curbing healthcare spending doesn’t seem to be getting the attention it deserves.
That lever, of course, would be an all-points program to improve patients’ adherence and compliance with their prescription drug therapy. Adopting a national strategy to elevate Americans’ abysmal medication compliance rate now pegged as low as 50% or less among all patients over the course of their drug therapy could yield tens, or even hundreds of billions of dollars in savings.
Much of that savings would come through improving patient outcomes and overall health by better-managed medication therapy, thus keeping people out of emergency rooms and critical-care centers. Tens of billions more would be realized by boosting productivity in the workplace as those patients regain their health or successfully manage their chronic conditions with the help of medication.
In the scramble for ways to cut health costs, improved compliance looks like some of the lowest of the low-hanging fruit. Estimates of how much non-adherence, non-compliance and non-persistence cost the U.S. healthcare system and economy each year range from $100 billion to $300 billion.
That’s a big drain on the U.S. economy. Enough to perhaps grab the attention of even the most fiscally jaded and distracted members of Congress, who are used to thinking in abstract billions of dollars for any piece of major legislation. To make sure it does, 27 pharmacy and healthcare organizations joined forces in mid-November to get the message to every senator and member of the House.
The letter those organizations jointly signed and sent Nov. 17 urged lawmakers to make patient adherence and compliance a central facet of any bill that emerges from the health reform negotiations now underway. Given the broad consensus represented by the coalition, the quality and reach of the organizations involved, and the huge savings they say could be achieved, it’s likely their message will at least get a hearing on Capitol Hill.