Impact of Nonadherence

Medication nonadherence can include delaying or not filling a prescription, skipping doses, splitting pills, or stopping a medication early. Nonadherence leads to poor health outcomes, which then increases healthcare service utilization and overall healthcare costs.

Poor Health Outcomes

There’s strong evidence that medication nonadherence is linked to poor health outcomes. Nonadherence to cardiovascular drugs results in a doubling of the rates of death and cardiovascular-related hospitalizations. Diabetic patients who do not take prescribed medications properly have higher glycosylated hemoglobin, systolic and diastolic blood pressure, and LDL cholesterol levels and face increased risks for hospitalization and mortality. Other serious complications that have been associated with nonadherence include heart attacks in patients with hypercholesterolemia or hypertension; stroke among diabetics; fractures in those with osteoporosis; and major depressive or destructive episodes in patients with mental illness.

“There is an out-of-control epidemic in the United States that costs more and affects more people than any disease Americans currently worry about. It’s called nonadherence to prescribed medications, and it is — potentially, at least — 100 percent preventable by the very individuals it afflicts.”

Jane E. Brody, New York Times

Poor adherence is linked to approximately 125,000 deaths a year in the U.S. as a result of not taking their medicine as directed. In fact, approximately one-third of medicine-related hospital admissions in the U.S. are linked to non-adherence.

Financial Cost 

Between $100 and $300 billion of avoidable healthcare costs have been attributed to nonadherence in the U.S. annually, representing 3% to 10% of total U.S. healthcare costs. It has been estimated that health-related productivity loss costs are 2.3 times higher than the direct healthcare costs.

Simply put, nonadherence costs patients their health and increases costs for additional doctor visits, emergency room visits, hospital admissions, and more medicine.

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