Prescription drug costs have skyrocketed in the U.S. in recent years. But research from Columbia Business School in Morningside Heights found that access to newer medications increases patients’ likelihood of taking them, improving health outcomes and decreasing care costs.
The research, which was announced this week, from Frank Lichtenberg, professor of healthcare management, found that patients are 2.5% more likely to start and stay on a course of treatment for every 10-year decrease in a drug’s time on the market. That’s equivalent to a $0.35 reduction in copayment for each day of a patient’s therapy.
Columbia noted that medication nonadherence—when patients do not fill or take prescriptions advised by doctors—costs the U.S. health care system $100 billion per year in hospital and other medical expenses.
“With the average age of drugs on the market hovering at about 30 years old, the potential to reduce costs—and increase patient health outcomes—is enormous,” the school said.
The research was co-authored with Katharina Blankart, professor at the University of Duisburg-Essen in Germany, who was a visiting scholar at Columbia during part of the work. Researchers examined data from the Truven Health Marketscan database, which includes pharmacy and medical claims data for about 50 million insured employees and their family members.
Though higher adherence levels may contribute to an initial spike in costs due to newer drugs being more expensive and in higher demand, overall health care costs can be reduced by the positive impact of those innovative drugs on patients’ health, the researchers noted.
“Prescribers and pharmacy benefit managers should be aware that patients tend to be more adherent to newer drugs within a therapeutic class when making prescription choices,” they concluded.
The study was funded by the German Ministry of Education and Research. The financial support was the equivalent of more than $500,000.