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Failure to take medication as directed a $200 billion problem, says study

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Irresponsible use of medicine drains the U.S. health care system of $200 billion in avoidable costs, or 8 percent of total health care expenditures, according to a new study.

The Parsippany-based IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics says misuse of medicines by patients and health care professionals results in avoidable hospital admissions, outpatient treatments, pharmaceutical prescriptions and emergency room visits.

The IMS Institute, in its report concludes that six areas lead to unnecessary costs:


– Patients not adhering to medication requirements.

– Delayed evidence-based treatment practice.

– Misuse of antibiotics.

– Medication errors.

– Poor use of generics.

– Mismanaged polypharmacy — or use of multiple medications — by older patients.


“As our study makes clear, drugs are often not used optimally, resulting in significant unnecessary health system spending and patient burdens,” said Murray Aiken, executive director for IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics, in a statement today. “Those avoidable costs could pay for the health care of more than 24 million currently uninsured U.S. citizens.”

The IMS Institute report says medication noncompliance the largest avoidable cost among the six categories, draining $105 billion from the health care system.

The study also analyzed four disease areas where patients either are not diagnosed early or treatment is not initiated promptly. The largest avoidable impact occurs with diabetes, where such delays increase outpatient visits and hospitalization.

The IMS Institute report found progress in certain areas.

Medication adherence among large populations of patients with hypertension, hyperlipidemia and diabetes has improved 3 to 4 percent since 2009.

In addition, the proportion of patients diagnosed with a cold or flu who inappropriately received antibiotics has fallen from 20 percent to 6 percent since 2007. The report also finds that patients are now receiving lower-cost generic alternatives to branded medications, when available, 95 percent of the time.

The full report is available at theimsinstitute.org.

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