Evidence Backs Policies to Boost Medication Adherence, New Report Concludes



June 14, 2013 (Arlington, Va.) — A new review of the research on the patient-health benefits of improved medication adherence supports the growing momentum behind government and market-based strategies to help patients take medications as prescribed.

“To improve patient outcomes and reduce the financial burden on the healthcare system, policymakers and other healthcare stakeholders should support measures that encourage greater engagement and education with patients to demonstrate the importance of proper medication use,” concluded the report — prepared independently by Avalere Health and funded by the National Association of Chain Drug Stores (NACDS).

Titled “The Role of Medication Adherence in the U.S. Healthcare System,” the review includes research on the connection between medication adherence, health outcomes and healthcare system spending, as well as research on major barriers to medication adherence and on examples of initiatives to help improve it.

“When patients struggle to obtain and use medications appropriately, they may limit a drug’s effectiveness, experience poor health outcomes as a result, and raise the overall cost of care in the United States,” the report stated. “For example, recent research has shown that 1) taking drugs as prescribed lowers total healthcare costs by an amount that exceeds the costs of the drugs themselves (Roebuck et al. 2011), and 2) lower spending on prescription drugs may be offset by higher medical services costs (Gaynor et al. 2007).”

The review noted that “the body of evidence on the cost-effectiveness of medication adherence has begun to influence policy,” as evidenced by the Congressional Budget Office’s move in 2012 to associate a reduction in Medicare’s medical service spending when the number of prescriptions filled increases.

“This is the first time the government’s non-partisan legislative scoring agency has credited greater usage of medications with saving healthcare costs, generally, as part of their guidance,” the review stated.

The review noted findings related to the effectiveness of pharmacist-led medication therapy management (MTM) — a methodical approach to helping patients understand and take their medications as prescribed. It also noted the importance of comprehensive medication reviews (CMR), an aspect of MTM in which the pharmacist reviews each individual drug and helps the patient take them appropriately to avoid adverse reactions and to maximize outcomes.

NACDS had endorsed bipartisan legislation in the Senate (S. 557) and in the House of Representatives (H.R. 1024) — the Medication Therapy Management Empowerment Act – which would improve access to MTM services for senior citizens enrolled in the Medicare Part D program.

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