Medication Adherence

For many common chronic conditions (e.g., high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes), prescription medications provide a cost-effective way to help people manage their disease.  Despite this, an alarming number of patients do not take their prescribed medications as directed by their doctors. Research shows that 25 percent of patients who are prescribed medications for a newly diagnosed chronic illness do not fill their initial prescription.  In addition, half of patients taking maintenance medications for chronic conditions will stop taking them within the first year of starting therapy.

Medication non-adherence is a major public health problem. People who stop taking their medicine face worsening health and potentially unnecessary hospitalization.  Medication non-adherence doesn’t just impact the individual who is not taking his or her medicine; it impacts all of us, with experts estimating the cost of unnecessary medical treatment resulting from non-adherence at nearly $300 billion a year.

As a pharmacy innovation company that is reinventing pharmacy to help people on their path to better health, CVS Caremark is focused on improving our understanding of why people do, or do not, take their prescription medicines as prescribed by their doctor. Since 2009 CVS Caremark has been collaborating with researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston to research the causes and impact of medication adherence to find ways to help people take their medicines.

Over the past several years, the research partnership has resulted in more than 20 studies published in peer-reviewed medical, pharmacy care and economic journals.  CVS Caremark has learned more about the financial impact of not taking drugs to treat common chronic diseases, common contributing factors to medication non-adherence, the role and impact of various health care providers on helping to improve adherence and the impact of technology.  A summary of the research can be found here.

In addition, CVS Caremark has used its data to develop a snapshot of medication adherence across all 50 states and to project potential cost-savings within each state from improved adherence to medications for four common conditions: diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and depression. More information is available here.