Appropriate Use of Medicines to Save Lives and Dollars

October 4, 2012

A new study, “Advancing the Use of Medicines: Applying Levers for Change,” highlights the opportunity to save half a trillion dollars in global healthcare spending a year by supporting the appropriate use of medicines – making sure patients receive and use the right medicine at the right time.  Just as important as the potential economic impact is the impact that the responsible use of medicines can have at a personal level through improved health outcomes.

This study was conducted over the past year jointly between the IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics and the World Health Organization (WHO) to identify areas where national health ministers and other leaders can most affect change. Aligning the goals and practices of all health system stakeholders including policymakers, payers, providers, pharmacists and patients would ensure the proper coordination so that patients are prescribed and take the right medicine at the right time.

Because of the potential for both human and economic savings, this report argues that Ministers of Health and other national health system leaders should make appropriate medication use a priority. According to the report, primary drivers of inefficiencies in the health care system include:  nonadherence, untimely medicine use, antibiotic misuse and overuse, medication errors, suboptimal generic use and mismanaged polypharmacy.

The recommendations to directly address these inefficiencies include:

  • Strengthen the role of the pharmacists in medication management;
  • Using medical audits, specifically focused on senior adults, to manage polypharmacy;
  • Implementing mandatory reporting of antibiotic use by providers;
  • Encouraging behavior change among health care professionals to support reporting of errors and problems; and
  • Supporting targeted disease management programs for patients with chronic diseases.

Both the IMS Institute and the WHO are aware of the limitations that exist in implementing these changes on a global level based on a Health Minister’s level of influence, cooperation among stakeholders, education level of providers and patients, availability of tools for informed decision making and appropriate incentives to drive optimal clinical and dispensing practices. However, they also believe that regardless of the state of the country and its health care system, progress can be made even if it is incremental and occurs slowly.

Through our work at both the national and international levels, the Partnership to Fight Chronic Disease understands the value of collaboration among the health care community and also in sharing best practices. Maximizing the value appropriate medication use offers in the fight against chronic disease is critically important both nationally and globally.