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Employer Update | October 2014
Employer Update | October 2014

New Report Cites Medication Adherence as a Multi-Billion Dollar Health Improvement Opportunity Across Upstate New York

Upstate New York adults who fail to adhere to the prescriptions written by their health care providers to address their medical conditions risk their health and ad billions of dollars in avoidable health care costs annually, according to a regional analysis issued today by Univera Healthcare.

"The opportunity for health improvement and real cost savings is nothing short of astounding," said Mona Chitre, Pharm.D., Univera Healthcare vice president and chief pharmacy officer.

The report relied on medical literature estimates for the national problem of medication nonadherence and applied them to estimates of adults living with high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol and depression statewide and in upstate New York. The four conditions studied were selected because of their prevalence, the availability of safe and effective medication therapies, and the established link between medication nonadherence and adverse outcomes. Estimated costs involving the four conditions are not additive, because many people have multiple health conditions.

The fact sheet, "Medication adherence among upstate New York adults: A multi-billion dollar health improvement opportunity," is available at Univerahealthcare.com/factsheets.

"Hundreds of thousands of upstate New Yorkers who have the four conditions we reviewed are not getting the real benefit of their medicines, and there are many other medical conditions we didn't evaluate, so the numbers are understated," Chitre said. "To stay healthy, patients who have medical conditions should take their medicines as directed by their physicians. Doing so will also help them avoid hospitalizations and other treatments."

Key findings of the report include:

  • Among the four conditions studied, high blood pressure poses the highest direct medical costs attributed to nonadherence. An estimated 388,000 upstate New York adults who are nonadherent with their blood pressure medicines add an estimated $1.5 billion to the region’s direct medical costs annually.
  • Of the 1.5 million upstate New York adults who have high cholesterol, the most prevalent chronic condition considered in the report, nearly 500,000 (about one-third) do not take prescribed medication as directed.
  • Improving prescription adherence among upstate New York adults by 5 percent and 10 percent would result in aggregate, direct medical cost savings of:
    • $176.0 million to $352.1 million for high blood pressure
    • $64.1 million to $128.1 million for high cholesterol
    • $54.5 million to $109.0 million for diabetes
    • $8.8 million to $17.7 million for depression

"We understand that the problem of nonadherence is a national issue, so it is not unique to upstate New York," Chitre said. "What will help is providing more education and promotion of the issue among all stakeholders, including patients and their family members, physicians, pharmacists, insurers, community organizations and employers."

Earlier this year, Univera Healthcare launched a community engagement campaign to promote medication adherence, developed with support from several county medical societies, pharmacy groups, county health departments and other regional health organizations. It features a pill bottle stylized as a superhero named TAD (for “Take As Directed”), adorned with a superhero cape and utility belt. Appearing in print, radio and billboard advertising, TAD conveys the simple message that prescription drugs, like superheroes, have superpowers to help protect the public, but only if taken as directed.

Univera Healthcare embraced the superhero theme to capitalize on the current popularity of the genre. This year alone, ten superhero movies are scheduled for release in theaters.

"We can't turn this around overnight, but we can work together to promote the notion that 'Take As Directed' is more than a slogan, it's literally a way to stay healthy that we all need to embrace," Chitre said.

The fact sheet also summarizes common barriers to adherence that include affordability, forgetfulness, concerns about side effects, complexity of directions, lack of knowledge, etc. Tips about how to overcome these barriers are available at UniveraHealthcare.com/TakeAsDirected.


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