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Medication adherence could lower state’s health costs

You could fill Ralph Wilson Stadium with the number of Western New Yorkers who don’t take their depression medication as directed.

This is one of the findings of a Univera Healthcare analysis released this week in the wake of the suicide of Robin Williams.

Upstate New Yorkers who fail to take their medications as directed for high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol and depression not only jeopardize their health but pile billions of dollars in avoidable health costs onto the state health care and insurance systems.

The Univera regional analysis – “Medication adherence among upstate New York adults: A multibillion dollar health improvement opportunity” – is part of the insurer’s continuing effort to encourage upstaters to take medications as directed. Among the findings:

• Of the four conditions studied, high blood pressure poses the highest direct medical costs attributed to nonadherence. An estimated 388,000 upstate New York adults who are nonadherent with their blood pressure medicines add an estimated $1.5 billion to the region’s direct medical costs annually.

• Of the 1.5 million upstate New York adults who have high cholesterol, the most prevalent chronic condition considered in the report, nearly one-third do not take prescribed medication as directed.

• 76,000 people in Western New York alone don’t take medication as prescribed to treat depression.

Non-adherence upstate costs nearly $3 billion a year in avoidable medical costs; Western New York accounts for an estimated $941 million of those costs, the analysis reports.

Improving prescription adherence among upstate adults by just 5 percent would result in medical cost savings of $176 million for high blood pressure, $64.1 million for high cholesterol, $54.5 million for diabetes and $8.8 million for depression, the report concludes.