Nonoptimized medication therapy costs U.S. $528.4 billion a year

Pharmacist-led comprehensive medication management may be the solution

Nonoptimized medication therapy costs the United States $528.4 billion a year, roughly 16% of the nation’s total health expenditure, according to researchers in a study published online in the Annals of Pharmacotherapy on March 1.

In the study, researchers compiled data from CDC, the Department of Health and Human Services, the Kaiser Family Foundation, peer-reviewed journals, and others about nonadherence, adverse drug events, new medical problems stemming from medication therapy, and prescriptions written for inaccurate medications or doses. From there they tracked the cost of negative therapeutic outcomes such as follow-up physician visits, additional prescriptions, emergency department visits, hospital admissions, admissions to long-term care facilities, and death. After accounting for inflation, they found that the average cost of an individual experiencing treatment failure, new medical problem, or both after initial prescription use were $2,481, $2,610, and $2,572, respectively, and that nonoptimized medication therapy results in 275,689 deaths per year. These estimates did not include direct nonmedical costs like transportation or indirect costs stemming from lost productivity.

The researchers proposed pharmacist-led comprehensive medication management in collaborative practice with physicians and other prescribers to reduce both nonoptimized medication therapy and its costs, and noted how health systems such as Kaiser Permanente and the VA have already begun transitioning into care models where pharmacists provide direct patient care in collaborative practice clinics.