Irresponsible use of medications by patients and health care providers costs the US health care system more than $200 billion per year, according to the results of a study released by the IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics on June 19, 2013. Along with the financial toll, the study found that irresponsible medication use leads to an additional 10 million hospital admissions, 78 million outpatient treatments, 246 million prescriptions, and 4 million emergency department visits per year.
Of 6 medication use practices analyzed in the study, medication nonadherence was found to be the biggest factor, responsible for an estimated $105 billion in annual avoidable costs. Delayed implementation of evidence-based treatment options and misuse of antibiotics were estimated to be responsible for $40 billion and $34 billion in annual avoidable costs, respectively. The other practices analyzed were medication errors, suboptimal use of generics, and mismanaged polypharmacy in older adults.
The study did find some signs of improvement in recent years: medication adherence among hypertension, hyperlipidemia, and diabetes patients has improved 3% to 4% since 2009, the portion of cold and flu patients inappropriately receiving antibiotic prescriptions has fallen from 20% to 6% since 2007, and patients receive lower-cost generic alternatives to branded medications 95% of the time when they are available.