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Billions Wasted Annually By Poor Prescription Behaviors

April 20, 2010

By making simple changes to their behavior, individuals taking prescription drugs could save themselves and their employers more than $160 billion per year, according to a new study released Tuesday.

The Express Scripts 2009 Drug Trend Report, which was prepared the St. Louis-based pharmacy benefit management agency, “quantifies changes in drug spend on a year-to-year basis and details the costly effects of irrational behaviors on pharmacy-related costs,” according to an April 20 press release.

According to their research, a total of $163 billion in healthcare cost is wasted because of a patient’s refusal or inability to follow medical instructions, use lower-cost prescription drug alternatives, or choosing lower-cost delivery options for medication.

Express Scripts reports that failure to adhere to therapy, which often results in a condition worsening, costs $106 billion annually, while not taking advantage of lower cost brand-name or generic medicine wastes $51 billion, making these the most wasteful behaviors amongst Americans.

“The good news is that these potential savings in the pharmacy benefit are tied to one of the few variables in healthcare we can readily influence: behavior,” Dr. Steven Miller, the senior vice president and chief medical officer at Express Scripts, said in the press release.

“This research shows that in terms of achieving lower costs and improved outcomes, healthcare reform starts in the home,” he added. “If we optimized every individual’s behavior relating to prescription drugs, we could achieve savings that in five years would cover the projected costs of the recently passed national healthcare reform legislation.”

As Julie Steenhuysen of Reuters points out, “The cost of these behaviors is a staggering $1 out of every $5 spent on prescription drugs, which account for 10 percent of the $2.3 trillion Americans spend on healthcare each year.”

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