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CVS Caremark Study Finds Medication Adherence Leads to Lower Health Care Costs, Even After Accounting for Increased Prescription Drug Spending

WOONSOCKET, R.I., Jan. 6, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- A new CVS Caremark study analyzing annual pharmacy and medical costs over a three-year period for patients with one or more of four chronic diseases concludes that patients who take medications as doctors direct may save the health care system as much as $7,800 per patient annually.  The study findings revealed robust reductions in emergency department visits and inpatient hospital days from medication adherence and by avoiding those costly events there were substantial savings in overall health care costs.  The study, "Medication Adherence Leads to Lower Health Care Use and Costs Despite Increased Drug Spending," was released today in the January issue of Health Affairs.


Troyen A. Brennan, MD, MPH, Executive Vice President and Chief Medical Officer of CVS Caremark and a study author, said company researchers analyzed pharmacy and medical claims data of 135,000 patients with congestive heart failure, diabetes, hypertension and dyslipidemia to determine the direct effect of adherence on costs.

"There have been many studies through the years that suggest adherence can save on health care costs, but the issue has not been central to health care cost discussions because those studies did not establish a causal link. We took the research further and what we found is that although adherent patients spend more on medications – as much as $1,000 more annually – across the board they spend significantly less for their overall health care costs," Brennan said.

The annual per person savings for chronically ill patients who were adherent to medications compared to those who were not amounted to $7,823 for those with congestive heart failure, $3,756 for a diabetes patient, $3,908 for hypertension and $1,258 for dyslipidemia or high cholesterol. Brennan said CVS Caremark plans to share the study with health care regulators and federal legislators as they consider policies to reduce health care costs.

The study population included patients in the CVS Caremark book of business with congestive heart failure (16,353), diabetes (42,080), hypertension (112,757) and dyslipidemia (53,401). "Across all conditions, adherence was associated with significantly lower annual inpatient hospital days," the study found.

Among the disease specific findings are:

  • People with congestive heart failure spent $39,076 on average annually, and had an average of 11.9 days in the hospital.  Those with congestive heart failure were older, averaging 77 years of age.
  • Diabetes costs per patient on average were $17,955 annually and these patients had an average of 4.26 days in the hospital.
  • Hypertension patients spent $14,813 on average annually and had 3.29 days on average in the hospital.
  • The annual spend for a person being treated for dyslipidemia was $12,688 on average. Hospital stays for these patients were 2.24 days on average.

  • Pharmacy costs for the patients ranged from $2,867 to $3,780 per year.

    The researchers also found that adherence effects were more pronounced in elderly patients sixty-five years and older. They commented that changes in the recently passed health reform law for Medicare, reducing prescription costs for beneficiaries by eliminating the doughnut hole and providing for therapy management and wellness programs, "were prudent." They recommend policy analysts take a harder look at how adherence programs and incentives might bend the health care cost curve downward.

    "No matter what the intervention, the researchers agreed that actively encouraging medication adherence for chronic disease should be a top priority," noted M. Christopher Roebuck, director of strategic research for CVS Caremark and lead author of the study. "Despite higher pharmacy spending the reduction in hospitalizations and emergency room use resulted in substantial savings."

    About CVS CaremarkCVS Caremark is the largest pharmacy health care provider in the United States. Through our integrated offerings across the entire spectrum of pharmacy care, we are uniquely positioned to provide greater access, to engage plan members in behaviors that improve their health and to lower overall health care costs for health plans, plan sponsors and their members. CVS Caremark is a market leader in mail order pharmacy, retail pharmacy, specialty pharmacy, and retail clinics, and is a leading provider of Medicare Part D Prescription Drug Plans. As one of the country's largest pharmacy benefits managers (PBMs), we provide access to a network of more than 64,000 pharmacies, including approximately 7,100 CVS/pharmacy® stores that provide unparalleled service and capabilities. Our clinical expertise includes one of the industry's most comprehensive disease management programs. General information about CVS Caremark is available through the Company's Web site at Contact:Jon SandbergCVS Caremark(401)770

    SOURCE CVS Caremark
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