An Innovative Approach to Improve Medication Adherence


Medication adherence is a huge problem plaguing the United States.

Medication adherence is a huge problem plaguing the United States.

The cost of nonadherence totaled $337 billion in 2013 alone, and each individual in the United States spent $9225 annually on health care, on average. It’s estimated that about $1 of every $9 spent was wasted simply because patients weren’t taking their medications.1

By improving adherence, patients’ overall health would improve and total health care costs would decrease drastically. Study results show improved medication adherence reduced total annual health care spending by $8881 in congestive heart failure, $4337 in hypertension, $4413 in diabetes, and $1860 in dyslipidemia.2

Pharmacists can play an important role in improving adherence by providing medication therapy management, comprehensive medication review, medication reconciliation, and even educational programs. However, these services can only go so far, so pharmacists need to constantly develop new methods to improve adherence.

In the past few months, Boehringer Ingelheim has teamed up with HealthPrize to launch a free online program called RespiPoints, which provides education on chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and rewards patients if they’re adherent to their Spiriva Respimat therapy.3 Patients can redeem points that can later be used to redeem gift cards at a variety of places, like Amazon and Starbucks. Patients redeem these points in a variety of ways, like filling their Spiriva Respimat on time, performing daily medication check-ins, and taking educational quizzes and surveys.

This is an innovative method to increase medication adherence, and the supporting data surrounding this program shows a promising future for COPD management. In a previous program, HealthPrize reported a 99% reduction in prescription refill gap days among patients taking a branded cholesterol-lowering medication. Gap days are days late to refill and also represent the number of days patients didn’t have their medication on hand. Before the start of the program, 1085 patients had an average of 8.81 gap days, but after enrolling into it, their mean gap days dropped to 0.06.4

With greater use of technology these days, this new method may prove valuable in increasing medication adherence and driving down health care costs. Perhaps other health care companies and professionals should start to implement financial incentive-driven online tools or mobile applications to tackle our ever-growing nonadherence problem.


  • Sundar H. The high price of low adherence to medication.
  • Roebuck MC, et al. Medication adherence leads to lower health care use and costs despite increased drug spending. Health Aff. 2011;30: 91-99.
  • Boehringer Ingelheim. Boehringer Ingelheim and HealthPrize partner to launch new support program for people treating COPD with SPIRIVA RESPIMAT (tiotropium bromide) inhalation spray. Published June 8, 2016.
  • HealthPrize. HealthPrize announces 99% reduction in prescription refill “gap days” for patients taking medication to lower cholesterol. Published April 19, 2016.

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