Medication adherence linked with cost savings in diabetes

March 29, 2011

Patients with diabetes who are more adherent to their therapy incur slightly lower healthcare costs, according to a recent study in the journal Health Services Research.

Patients with diabetes who are more adherent to their therapy incur slightly lower healthcare costs, according to a recent study in the journal Health Services Research.

Researchers determined that patients with diabetes taking statins to control their cholesterol levels could realize savings of $832 over a 3-year period by increasing their medication adherence 10%. They also found that patients who took ACE inhibitors over a 3-year period and who increased adherence 10% could lower their costs by $285. A 10% increase in adherence to medication translates to taking 3 more pills per month if a patient were prescribed one a day for a 30-day month.

"This is a commonsensical notion: that better adherence to drugs that are recommended should have impacts that could plausibly save money," said lead investigator Bruce Stuart, PhD, a professor at the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy in Baltimore. Stuart spoke with Health Behavior News Service, part of the Center for Advancing Health.

Stuart and his colleagues followed about 4,000 Medicare patients with diabetes. They asked patients to track their pill counts and then estimated spending costs from Medicare data.

The link, however, between medication adherence and healthcare costs is not always clear.

"It may be the people who take their pills regularly also regularly exercise and watch their diet and conform to all the requirements, so it's hard to separate them," said Robert R. Henry, MD, president of medicine and science for the American Diabetes Association.