Retail News Breaks Archives
Study sizes up savings from medication adherence
January 6th, 2011
WOONSOCKET, R.I. – A new CVS Caremark Corp. study found that patients who take medications as doctors direct may save the health care system as much as $7,800 per patient annually.
The company said Thursday that the study, which analyzed annual pharmacy and medical costs over a three-year period for patients with one or more of four chronic diseases, revealed reductions in emergency department visits and in-patient hospital days from medication adherence and, as a result, there were substantial savings in overall health care costs.
Titled "Medication Adherence Leads to Lower Health Care Use and Costs Despite Increased Drug Spending," the study was released Thursday in the January issue of Health Affairs, according to CVS Caremark.
Company researchers analyzed pharmacy and medical claims data of 135,000 patients with congestive heart failure, diabetes, hypertension and dyslipidemia to gauge the direct effect of adherence on costs.
"There have been many studies through the years that suggest adherence can save on health care costs, but the issue has not been central to health care cost discussions because those studies did not establish a causal link," stated Troy Brennan, executive vice president and chief medical officer of CVS Caremark and a study author. "We took the research further, and what we found is that although adherent patients spend more on medications — as much as $1,000 more annually — across the board they spend significantly less for their overall health care costs."
The annual per person savings for chronically ill patients who adhered to medications, compared with those who didn't do so, amounted to $7,823 for those with congestive heart failure, $3,756 for a diabetes patient, $3,908 for hypertension and $1,258 for dyslipidemia or high cholesterol.
Brennan added that CVS Caremark plans to share the study's results with health care regulators and federal legislators as they consider policies to trim health care costs.
The study population included patients in the CVS Caremark book of business with congestive heart failure (16,353), diabetes (42,080), hypertension (112,757) and dyslipidemia (53,401). "Across all conditions, adherence was associated with significantly lower annual inpatient hospital days," the study found.
Among the disease-specific findings were the following, CVS Caremark said:
• People with congestive heart failure spent $39,076 on average annually and had an average of 11.9 days in the hospital. Those with congestive heart failure were older, averaging 77 years of age.
• Diabetes costs per patient on average were $17,955 annually, and these patients had an average of 4.26 days in the hospital.
• Hypertension patients spent $14,813 on average annually and had 3.29 days on average in the hospital.
• The annual spend for a person being treated for dyslipidemia was $12,688 on average. Hospital stays for these patients were 2.24 days on average.
Pharmacy costs for the patients ranged from $2,867 to $3,780 per year.
The researchers also found that adherence effects were more pronounced in elderly patients sixty-five years and older. They noted that changes in the recently passed health reform law for Medicare, reducing prescription costs for beneficiaries by eliminating the doughnut hole and providing for therapy management and wellness programs, "were prudent." They recommended that policy analysts take a harder look at how adherence programs and incentives might bend the health care cost curve downward.
"No matter what the intervention, the researchers agreed that actively encouraging medication adherence for chronic disease should be a top priority," stated M. Christopher Roebuck, director of strategic research for CVS Caremark and lead author of the study. "Despite higher pharmacy spending the reduction in hospitalizations and emergency room use resulted in substantial savings."