Cincinnati, OH—Failure to take medications as prescribed does more than keep patients from realizing the benefits of treatment. Nonadherence also has a higher monetary cost, according to a new study.

The report, published in Inflammatory Bowel Diseases, points out that costs for children and adolescents who are increasingly nonadherent to drug regimens go up more than three-fold compared with patients who follow their physician’s advice.

“This study has important ramifications for health care reform and how practitioners approach adherence assessment and intervention in routine care,” said lead author Kevin Hommel, PhD, director of the Center for Health Technology Research at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center. “With sustained efforts to reduce nonadherence in chronic conditions, we may see concomitant reduction in health care costs.”

The study team focused on 99 patients between the ages of 2 and 21 with inflammatory bowel disease, collecting data each month for 2 years on whether patients were taking their medicines and how that might affect disease severity and healthcare costs.

To do that, they employed pharmacy refill data, disease activity ratings obtained from medical charts, and hospital and physician charges associated with an International Classification of Diseases, Ninth Revision code for ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease from the hospital’s accounting database.

Results indicate that patients with increasing nonadherence “demonstrated significantly higher health care costs than patients with stable ≤10%, stable 11% to 20%, or decreasing nonadherence,” the authors note.

“This suggests that, in addition to leveraging prevention efforts to keep patients from becoming more nonadherent as treatment continues, efforts aimed at modifying adherence behavior may result in significant cost savings over time,” the researchers conclude.

They add, however, that it is never too late for patients to benefit from becoming more adherent to their drug regiments. The study found that patients who increased compliance with recommendations over time incurred about same costs as those who consistently took their medications.

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