Cost is the Biggest Barrier to Medication Adherence

  • Cost may be the biggest barrier to medication adherence, according to pharmacists.

Numerous studies have found as many as three of four Americans don’t take medications as prescribed.  A new survey by CVS Caremark of more than 2,400 of its retail pharmacists reveals 62 percent believe the high cost of drugs is the biggest reason why. The pharmacists estimated that, during the course of a year, nearly one third of their customers decide not to fill a prescription due to price.

"The pharmacist can be one of the most influential voices in helping patients take their medications as directed."

Nonadherence can lead to bad outcomes. Some 125,000 deaths and 10 percent to 20 percent of hospital and nursing home admissions each year are directly attributed to medication non-adherence. It’s ironic non-adherence accounts for some $300 billion a year in additional U.S. health care spending, yet the biggest factor behind this failure is the cost of medications.

For patients, though, the cost conversation can be difficult. A Consumer Reports survey found consumers are uncomfortable talking to their pharmacist about their difficulties paying for prescriptions. Yet the CVS Caremark survey shows pharmacists are interested and available to counsel customers on generic alternatives, payment options and other concerns. “The pharmacist can be one of the most influential voices in helping patients take their medications as directed,” says Larry Merlo, President and CEO of CVS Caremark. “Our pharmacists also believe they can achieve even better results through partnership and close collaboration with prescribing physicians.”

In the CVS survey, the vast majority of pharmacists (89 percent) believe counseling their customers is as important as filling their prescriptions and almost as many (88 percent) said customers who receive first-hand counseling from their pharmacist were more likely to be adherent. Patients welcome information about generic substitutions, the respondents said, and 91 percent said having cost effective alternatives to more expensive therapies improves medication adherence.