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April 3, 2018, Vienna, Va. – The high price of prescriptions at the pharmacy counter isn’t the only drug cost problem in the U.S. A new study finds that illness and death resulting from the wrong prescription, the wrong dose, skipped doses or new medication-related issues—what the authors call “non-optimized medication therapy”—cost an estimated $528 billion a year. That represents 16 percent of total U.S. health care expenditures, according to research published in the Annals of Pharmacotherapy and coauthored by Terry McInnis, MD, co-founder of the Get the Medications Right Institute.

“Medication-related errors are a top preventable cause of serious adverse health events and avoidable readmissions,” McInnis wrote in the 2016 report, Get the Medications Right: A Nationwide Snapshot of Expert Practices. These errors often arise from lack of a systematic and coordinated approach to manage drug therapy—an approach that optimizes the expertise of every member of the health care team. “Health plans, employers and other payers also benefit when they pay only for medications that are safe, appropriate and effective for the patient; comprehensive medication management accomplishes this,” she says.

The new study also points to comprehensive medication management[1] as a means to both reduce unnecessary costs and increase safety; the authors estimate non-optimized medication therapy results in 275,689 deaths per year.

The estimated cost for each patient experiencing a treatment failure, new medication problem or both is estimated to be between $2,233 and $2,742. The total direct cost estimate for one year, $528 billion, represents direct medical costs alone; it doesn’t include transportation, caregiving, lost productivity or disability from non-optimized medication therapy. The researchers examined medical resources utilized when drug therapy isn’t optimized, such as additional medications that may be needed and avoidable trips to an emergency department, hospitalization, care in long-term facilities and provider visits.

The study, Cost of Prescription Drug–Related Morbidity and Mortality, by Jonathan H. Watanabe, PharmD, MS, PhD, Terry McInnis, MD, MPH, and Jan D. Hirsch, PhD is available online here.

About the Get the Medications Right™ Institute

The Get the Medications Right Institute is the country’s leading advocacy group for the mainstream acceptance and implementation of comprehensive medication management (CMM) and a systematic approach to optimized patient outcomes and overall reduced costs. The GTMR Institute raises awareness, builds demand for and broadens the adoption of CMM practice, helping organizations overcome the barriers to implementation through identification and dissemination of tools, expert practices, diagnostic evidence, innovation, policy and payment solutions. Learn more at gtmr.org.

[1] CMM is “the standard of care that ensures each patient’s medications (whether they are prescription, nonprescription, alternative, traditional, vitamins, or nutritional supplements) are individually assessed to determine that each medication is appropriate for the patient, effective for the medical condition, safe given the comorbidities and other medications being taken, and able to be taken by the patient as intended.” McInnis, T, Webb E, and Strand L. The Patient-Centered Medical Home: Integrating Comprehensive Medication Management to Optimize Patient Outcomes, Patient- Centered Primary Care Collaborative, June 2012
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