The New England HealthCare Institute has released a report projecting the current costs of patients’ failures to follow medication regimens. Basing its conclusion upon earlier research which used a model to estimate these costs, NEHI says we are spending $290 billion on medical care which could be avoided with full adherence to therapy. (NEHI Article) While there is no question that medication therapy compliance is a serious problem, the method used to estimate these costs is not particularly rigorous and uses questionable assumptions. The very large number which results is almost certainly a significant overstatement of the avoidable costs.
Notwithstanding the questionable methodology, the report does an excellent job of setting out a number of approaches to improve medication adherence. In addition to adherence, as the report recognizes, there is also a need to manage medication therapy better. Often patients are under or over-dosed, put on medications they don’t need, not put on ones they do need and left on drugs which are giving them significant side effects. Poor medication therapy management is a root cause of poor medication adherence and should be addressed first in identifying adherence issues.