Medication waste came to $418 billion in '12

By BenefitsPro

By Kathryn Mayer

Talk about a dose of bad medicine: The United States wasted $418 billion in 2012 based on bad medication-related decisions, and the impact was most deeply felt in those states that could least afford it.

According to research from pharmacy-benefit manager Express Scripts, while these costly decisions impact the entire nation, they have a disproportionate effect on the poorest states.

Mississippi, which has the lowest median household income in the country, had the most wasteful spending, totaling $1,622.76 per resident, according to Express Scripts.

The other low-income states that top the list in unnecessary pharmacy-related costs include Louisiana, Arkansas, Alabama, Kentucky, Tennessee, South Carolina, New Mexico and Oklahoma. Those states with high levels of waste were primarily located in the South, an area also associated with higher rates of chronic disease.

Vermont wasted the least amount per capita among all states, at an average of $1,004.39 in unnecessary costs per resident, Express Scripts found.

“Our nation pays a huge price for bad medication-related decisions, and it’s clear that the price is even more costly for those at the lowest end of the economic spectrum,” said Steve Miller, chief medical officer at Express Scripts. “The good news is that our country can save billions of dollars for patients, employers and the government— and achieve healthier outcomes — simply by driving better decisions within the pharmacy benefit.”

Waste was defined as medication-related spending that provided no additional clinical benefit. This includes the use of high-priced prescription drugs and pharmacies when clinically equivalent or superior alternatives existed, as well as unnecessary medical expenses that could have been avoided by patients adhering to their medication therapies.

Breaking the numbers down, Express Scripts found:
  • $55.8 billion was spent unnecessarily on higher-priced medications when more affordable, clinically equivalent alternatives were available.

  • $93.1 billion could have been saved if patients would have used the most cost-effective and clinically appropriate pharmacies, including home delivery and specialty. This savings includes $33.5 billion in lower drug costs, as well as $59.6 billion in avoided medical costs attributed to the higher adherence rates associated with home delivery and specialty pharmacies.

  • An additional $269.4 billion was spent on avoidable medical and pharmacy expenses as a result of patients not remaining adherent to their medication treatments. This total does not include the $59.6 billion in adherence savings directly associated with better pharmacy choices.
“It’s hard to believe, but when we consider associated medical expenses, bad pharmacy-related decisions waste more money than what the country spends in total on prescription drugs,” Miller said.

Part of the solution? Miller said patients need to make better drug, pharmacy and health choices.

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