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Report: Many patients fail to take medicine as prescribed Posted: April 17th, 2012

By Maryalene LaPonsie

U.S. health care costs could be reduced by $290 billion annually if patients would take their medications as prescribed. That is one highlight of the CVS Caremark "State of the States: Adherence Report."

The report takes a closer look at how many patients take their medicine as prescribed and provides a snapshot of adherence in all 50 states, as well as the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. CVS Caremark says it plans to use the research to work collaboratively with health care providers to target patients considered at high-risk for nonadherence.

Many patients fail to fill new prescriptions

According to CVS Caremark, a quarter of patients fail to fill their initial prescription for a new illness. In addition, half of those with chronic conditions stop taking their medication within a year of starting a prescription. Dropped prescriptions - known as medication nonadherence - can add up to $290 billion to U.S. health care costs each year, according to CVS Caremark.

CVS Caremark's research found patients with the following conditions could expect to see significant annual savings in their health care costs should they take their medications as prescribed:

  • High cholesterol: $1,258 savings
  • Diabetes: $3,756 savings
  • High blood pressure: $3,908 savings
  • Congestive heart failure: $7,823 savings

Separate research suggests adherence rates could be increased with the creation of centralized "pharmacy homes,"' development of programs that reduce complexity, and experimentation with programs and technologies to help patients better organize their medication.

States classified by medication adherence

The report considered several factors when determining the level of medication nonadherence in a particular state. The report also focused on four common chronic conditions: hypertension, high cholesterol, diabetes and depression.

The criteria used included the following information:

  • Amount of medication a patient had on hand
  • When and if prescriptions were refilled
  • How prescriptions were accessed - either through mail order or a retail pharmacy
  • How often generic prescriptions were used

States were then classified with either a gold, silver or bronze ranking.

CVS Caremark now plans to use its research to work with providers to reduce medication nonadherence. The medical insurance company says its focus will be on identifying appropriate pharmacist interventions.