Medication nonadherence increases healthcare costs, decreases pharma revenue

In modern value-based care, health literacy usually focuses on the benefits for the patient. A more educated person will ostensibly be more involved in his or her care and will have fewer complications and readmissions as a result. 

However, patients who understand the gravity of their conditions and have enough faith to not stray from medication regimens also have the potential to drastically reduce unnecessary costs in healthcare. Medication nonadherence is a significant drain on the industry's financial well-being, and online prescription dealer Express Scripts estimated that this number may reach as high as $317.4 billion annually

What's the cost?
Patients put their lives at risk every time they skip a dose of a prescribed medication or fail to refill a prescription, though the healthcare industry is in a similarly dire situation. The Institute of Medicine explained that unnecessary medical costs total almost $750 billion, and the $317.4 billion due to medication nonadherence may be entirely preventable with robust health literacy outreach efforts.

Express Scripts noted that the majority of patients - 69 percent - who stop taking their medications do so not because of high costs or uncomfortable side effects, but because they mistakenly miss a dose or fail to refill a prescription within the appropriate time. Only 16 percent of patients cite finances as their reason to end a medication regimen, while just 15 percent said they needed more information from their physicians before they felt comfortable taking their medications.

With more than two-thirds of all nonadhering patients exhibiting preventable behaviors, health literacy programs are well-situated to change problematic perspectives and lax medication habits. However, doing so requires expertly crafted and personalized educational materials across various media platforms to reach as many patients as necessary.

Save money, make money
Recouping even a fraction of that $317.4 billion may be a boon for healthcare, but the pharmaceutical industry has its own incentives to increase health literacy as well. According to a 2012 study from global strategy firm Capgemini Consulting, medication nonadherence causes the U.S. pharmaceutical industry to miss out on an estimated $188 billion dollars annually - a 37 percent revenue gap between the annual potential high-water mark of $508 billion.

"The revenue that pharma leaves on the table due to lack of adherence to prescription medications is much higher than usually thought," Thomas Forissier, principal at Capgemini Consulting, said in a statement. "Pharma executives believe that they do not have the means to address this, mostly because of limitations on patient access, but modern interactive media can provide that communication link."