David Vaczek

January 4, 2016

2 Min Read
Adherence saves healthcare costs, HCPC tells PhRMA

The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) has offered to voluntarily grant nearly $80 billion in discounts to Medicare beneficiaries over the next decade in an effort to reduce overall healthcare costs. In response, the HCPC noted that far greater savings can be achieved if immediate steps are taken to help people take prescription drugs properly.

“Published research points to several key reasons why people don’t take their prescription drugs properly,” notes HCPC Executive Director Peter G. Mayberry. “And one reason that is almost always on the top of the list is ‘forgetfulness.’”

Pharmaceutical noncompliance drains more than $180 billion from the national economy every year owing to unnecessary emergency room visits, hospital stays, trips to the doctor, lost productivity, and early death. A recent study funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services concludes that better pharmaceutical packaging can significantly increase pharmaceutical compliance and improve healthcare outcomes.

The study, conducted by Ohio State University (OSU) and appearing in the Jan/Feb 2008 edition of the Journal of the American Pharmacists Association, compared two groups of patients given the same drugs for high blood pressure in two different types of packaging: one group received their drugs in standard pharmacy vials, while the other group was given the exact same drug in a unit dose blister card with compliance-prompting features.

After a year of tracking both groups, OSU researchers found that the group who received their drugs in blister packs with compliance-prompting features refilled their prescriptions in a much more timely manner and also achieved markedly better reductions in their blood pressure readings. 

“In the United States today, the only class of drugs currently dispensed by manufacturers in a unit dose format with compliance-prompting features is birth control pills, and the most recent data shows that compliance rates with these drugs exceeds 92%,” Mayberry says. Compliance rates of medications not in special packaging, for example organ-rejection drugs, are around 82%.

If better packaging can improve compliance by a 10%, Mayberry notes, annual savings should equal about $18 billion. “Over 10 years,” he pointed out, “that is more than double what the PhRMA program seeks to achieve.”

The HCPC is a not-for-profit trade association that was formed in 1990 to promote the benefits of unit dose packaging. The United States is one of only a few countries in the world where pharmaceutical manufacturers are able to ship prescription drugs in bulk containers such that the drugs must be repackaged in the pharmacy before they can be given to consumers. 

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