Cutting Costs by Cutting Pills

Medical CostsAccording to some disturbing data released yesterday by the CDC, many US adults aren’t following doctor’s orders. And it’s not just the very young or very old, who, it could be claimed,  don’t know any better.

It turns out that adults under the retirement age are twice as likely to skip their prescribed medications in order to save money to save money.

And although spending on drugs is expected to increase an average of 6.6% a year from 2015 through 202, 20% of adults regardless of age, have asked their doctors for a lower cost treatment.

Americans spent $45 billion out-of-pocket on retail prescription drugs in 2011. But, “if you’re not insured or you face high co-payments, you’re going to stretch your prescriptions,” says Steve Morgan, an associate professor at the University of British Columbia’s School of Population and Public Health in Vancouver. “Even among insured populations, there is this invincibility mindset among the very young. Older people are more likely to adhere to chronic therapies over a longer period of time than younger.”

The study also found that 13% of those ages 18 – 64 reported not taking their medications as prescribed to reduce costs compared with 5.8% of those 65 and older.

cut pillStrategies that alter the way adults take their medications include skipping doses and consuming less than the prescribed amount. About 11% of those aged 18 – 64 also delayed filling a prescription compared with 4.4% of those 65 and older.

Uninsured adults were more likely to have tried to stretch their medications than those with Medicaid or private insurance.

But are such savings worth it? Failing to take medication as prescribed may actually increase costs to the U.S. health system, particularly if medication non-adherence results in increased hospitalizations, or complications of chronic diseases.

Anytime a patient chooses not to take drugs as prescribed, the pharmaceutical industry pharma loses sales. A recent study estimated that pharma loses $564 billion globally to non-adherence to drugs. Not surprisingly then, the industry is experimenting with reminders, to increase adherence. Nevertheless, a nudge from a text or a talking pill container might not inspire patients who are penny pinching.

I’d love to stay and chat, but I need to run to the pharmacy to refill my blood pressure meds that I ran out of several days ago!

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Doctors don’t care if patients take their medicine

When SRxA’s Word on Health read the above title from fellow healthcare blogger Lucy Pyne, we were intrigued.

Could this be true?   Citing a 2008 study entitled “Just What the Doctor Ordered,” she argues that physicians don’t consider adherence to be their primary responsibility and seriously underestimate the incidence of non-adherence, often thinking that they are unable to address the issue themselves. Instead, they believe that patients are responsible for their own adherence.

Could this be right? When prescribing new or different medication regimens, physicians spend most of the time explaining the purpose and side effects of the drug and sometimes how to take it. Less, and often no time, is spent on consequences of non-adherence, potential interactions, and refills. And in today’s high-volume pharmacy environment,  busy check-outs, drive-thrus, internet pharmacies and home delivery services in-depth pharmacist-to-patient counseling on the safe use of medication is no longer the norm.

Does it matter anyway? There’s plenty of research out there to show that the average patient forgets about half the information provided 15 minutes after meeting with a doctor. Studies also show that patients remember more about diagnosis than the details of treatment.

Hell, Yeah, it does! As a result patients are not being treated properly and the health industry is losing hundreds of millions in revenue. Adherence does matter, and it needs to matter more. There’s an abundance of reasons why patients don’t adhere to their medication. A fear of it harming rather than helping is particularly common.  No surprise then that the most frequently used health-related Google search term is ‘drug side effects.’ And while much of the information on the Internet is accurate, much of it isn’t, requiring healthcare professionals to rebut false information and deliver accurate instructions.

So, what are the options? According to Pyne, the pharma industry must review its approach to marketing. In order to maximize sales and overcome the dangerous consequences of patient non-adherence, the issue of non-adherence cannot be ignored for much longer.  Something needs to change. The simple truth is, drugs don’t work if patients don’t take them. SRxA can help industry address and solve their adherence problems. We have developed a number of unique programs that not only improve medication usage and prescription refills, but deliver better health and reduced costs. Contact us today to learn more.