Lifestyle-related diseases stemming from tobacco, alcohol and obesity, have taken over infectious diseases such as HIV and malaria to become the greatest killer of people worldwide, says a new World Health Organization report. Indeed, chronic illnesses like cancer, heart disease and diabetes have reached global epidemic proportions and now cause more deaths than all other diseases combined.
Evidence shows that a comprehensive focus on prevention and improved treatment leads to dramatic declines in mortality rates. Currently, the report points out, the main focus of health care for non-communicable diseases (NCDs) in many low- and middle-income countries is hospital-centered acute care. This is a very expensive approach that will not contribute to a signiﬁcant reduction of the NCD burden. It also denies people the health beneﬁts of taking care of their conditions at an early stage.
To contain the diabetes worldwide epidemic, WHO says at least three interventions for prevention and management of diabetes are shown to reduce costs while improving health. Blood pressure and glycemic control, and foot care are feasible and cost-effective interventions for people with diabetes, including in low- and middle-income countries.
WHO’s recommendations have been validated by a new study in the U.S. which shows that individuals with diabetes who adhere to their medication have lower risk of hospitalization by one-third when compared to patients who do not adhere to their medication.
The results of the study by Prime Therapeutics (Prime), a thought leader in pharmacy benefit management, are being presented the last week in April at the Academy of Managed Care Pharmacy’s 23rd Annual Meeting and Showcase in Minneapolis earlier this week.
Nearly 300 million people worldwide have (mostly type 2) diabetes. In the U.S. alone, more than 23 million Americans have been diagnosed with diabetes mellitus (DM) and each year another 1.6 million people are diagnosed with the condition.
Poor medication adherence has been associated with worse medical outcomes and increased medical costs for patients with diabetes in a single employer or the elderly.
Until now, there has been little data quantifying the potential value of improved outcomes and costs possible with better medication adherence in a large commercially insured population. In this study, one of the largest of its kind, more than 15,000 commercially insured individuals with a diabetes diagnosis medical claim were followed for one year.
“Our research found adherent individuals had $1,010 lower medical costs during the year,” said Patrick Gleason, PharmD, director of Clinical Outcomes Assessment at Prime, in a press release. “Besides the medical cost savings, patients that adhere to their medications are likely to have improved health and increased quality of life. Yet in this study, we found one-quarter of patients do not stick to their diabetes medication, so the medical community must find ways to increase adherence for those most at-risk.”
Researchers from Prime and one of its Blue Cross and Blue Shield clients reviewed pharmacy and medical claims from a commercial medical plan with 1.3 million members. The study identified individuals continuously enrolled between 2007 and 2009.
Researchers then focused on members who had either two separate office visits for diabetes or a diabetes-related hospitalization in 2008 and with a DM medication supply or a diagnosis of diabetes with microvascular disease. All medical and pharmacy claim costs were added up to determine the total cost of care.
A total of 15,043 members were followed for one year. Of that group, 73.9 percent (11,108 members) were adherent to their medication and 26.1 percent (3,935 members) were non-adherent. While those individuals adherent to DM medication had higher pharmacy costs which led to an increase in the overall total cost of care ($572), those adhering to medications were found to have a 31 percent lower risk of hospitalization and significantly lower overall medical costs ($1,010) than the non-adherent group.
Earlier studies, too, have shown that non-adherence with medication regimens results in increased use of medical resources, such as physician visits, laboratory tests, unnecessary additional treatments, emergency department visits, and hospital or nursing home admissions. Non-adherence may also result in treatment failure.
In the context of disease, medication non-adherence can be termed an “epidemic.” More than 10% of older adult hospital admissions may be due to non-adherence with medication regimens. In one study, one-third of older persons admitted to the hospital had a history of non-adherence. Nearly one-fourth of nursing home admissions may be due to older persons’ inability to self-administer medications.
Problems with medication adherence were cited as a contributing factor in more than 20% of cases of preventable adverse drug events among older persons in the ambulatory setting. It is estimated that non-adherence costs the US health care system $100 billion per year. In addition, approximately 125,000 deaths occur annually in the U.S. due to non-adherence with cardiovascular medications.
Of all age groups, older persons with chronic diseases and conditions benefit the most from taking medications, and risk the most from failing to take them properly. Among older adults the consequences of medication non-adherence may be more serious, less easily detected, and less easily resolved than in younger age groups.
Improving adherence with medication regimens can make a difference. A recently published study found that for a number of chronic medical conditions – diabetes, hypertension, hypercholesterolemia, and congestive heart failure – higher rates of medication adherence were associated with lower rates of hospitalization (see diagram), and a reduction in total medical costs.