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Study: Misuse of medication led to $213 billion in avoidable costs

June 19, 2013|By Adolfo Flores
  • Patients wait in emergency room waiting area for care at Olive View UCLA Medical Center on in Sylmar.
Patients wait in emergency room waiting area for care at Olive View UCLA… (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles…)

A study found that if patients and doctors used medicines responsibly, the U.S. healthcare system could save $213 billion annually.

Failing to adhere to prescription instructions, misuse of antibiotics and medication errors are some of the reasons for the avoidable costs, according to findings from IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics.

Together, these areas lead to unnecessary utilization of healthcare resources involving an estimated 10 million hospital admissions, 78 million outpatient treatments, 246 million prescriptions and four million emergency room visits annually.

To put the figure in perspective, the research firm said the $213 billion would pay for the healthcare of more than 24 million people who are currently uninsured.

“Drugs are often not used optimally, resulting in significant unnecessary health system spending and patient burdens,” said Murray Aitken, executive director of the IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics.

“Reaching a meaningful level of consensus and alignment among stakeholders, based on measured and proven success models, is a key step to unlocking the $200 billion opportunity identified in our study.”

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Because the use of medicines is expected to grow due to an expansion in insurance coverage, a rise in chronic diseases and an aging population, it’s becoming increasingly important to ensure medicines are being used correctly, the report said.

Patients not adhering to their doctor’s medication guidelines experienced complications that led to an estimated $105 billion in annual avoidable healthcare costs. It was the largest preventable cost researchers found.

Delays in treatment and failing to diagnose diabetes, hepatitis, atrial fibrillation, and coronary heart disease early led to $40 billion in annual unnecessary costs.

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adolfo.flores@latimes.com

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