Floridians would could save more than $260 million dollars a year if they just took their medications the way their doctors told them to, said a new report released today from CVS Caremark.
The Medication Adherence Report, which lists state-by-state findings, also found that if Floridians converted all their brand-name prescription drugs to generics when available, they would save an additional $579 million a year.
Nationwide, if patients met ideal compliance levels and switched to generics, the health-care system could save as much as $290 billion annually, the report said.
To analyze potential savings, the study focused on drug compliance for four major chronic conditions: diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and depression. The study drew data from a pool of more than 60 million CVS Caremark pharmacy patients nationwide, according to company spokeswoman Christine Cramer.
Granted, the pharmacy chain, which funded the study, stands to gain if all patients filled their prescriptions as told -- a fact that casts some doubt on the motivations behind the adherence report. However, independent studies confirm that patients who don’t take their medicine as prescribed cost the country a lot more.
Costs for chronic diseases rise when they are left unchecked.
The report defined optimal adherence as 80 percent compliance. That level of adherence and the use of generics together would lead to a potential cost savings of between $19 million and $2.1 billion among states, with Texas and California standing the save the most, according to the report.
The combined potential savings of $839 million for Florida alone, puts the Sunshine State in 10th place among states that would save the most for better adherence, and in 7th place if more Floridians traded their brand-name drugs for generics.
“Research shows that half of patients taking maintenance medications for a chronic disease stop taking their medications within a year of starting therapy,” said Helena Foulkes, chief officer at CVS Caremark, in her letter opening the 108-page report.
In the United States, “annual excess health care costs due to medication non-adherence have been estimated to be as much as $290 billion,” she said.
The study found that patients with depression had the lowest adherence rates, while patients with hypertension were most adherent.
Those who abandon their prescriptions do so for many reasons. “Many patients don’t feel bad before we put them on medication, so don’t believe they need it,” said family practitioner Dr. Todd Sontag, of Oviedo.
Some start taking the medicine, feel better, then go off it, he said.
Other top reasons for non compliance include undesirable side effects, not fully understanding the consequences of their disease if left untreated, and cost, not only of the medication but also of the follow-up appointments with their physicians, he said.
Resistance to switching brand medication for generics comes from the inconsistency that exists among generics, Sontag said.
The data “demonstrate the need for increased adoption of interventions that can improve medication adherence to advance health outcomes and lessen costs,” said Dr. Troy Brennan, CVS chief medical officer.
“The studies are out there,” said Sontag. “If you can control blood pressure, cholesterol and diabetes, the chances of stroke and heart attack drop dramatically. Prevention always costs less.”
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