Medication-adherent employees less likely to miss work

New research conducted by CVS Caremark and Truven Health Analytics found that employees with chronic conditions who were adherent to their prescribed medications had up to seven fewer days away from work annually (including absenteeism and short term disability days) than those who were not adherent. The study was published July 16 in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

Researchers estimated that conformance with medication regimens translated into annual savings of up to nearly $1,700 per adherent employee.

Chronic diseases such as asthma, diabetes, high blood pressure and elevated cholesterol impact nearly 70 percent of working-age adults in the United States. While research has demonstrated the impact of medication adherence on reducing overall healthcare costs, there has been less evidence available to date on whether adherence improves employee productivity, according to the report authors.

"These research findings clearly show that employees who receive appropriate medical care and follow their doctor's directions about taking their medication are healthier and more productive," said Troyen Brennan, MD, MPH, executive vice president and chief medical officer of CVS Caremark. "These results are one more piece of the puzzle illustrating the impact of medication adherence in improving health outcomes while managing overall health care costs."

The researchers examined data on prescription drug usage, absenteeism and short-term disability for more than 100,000 employees at more than 16 medium to large-sized employers. Employees included in the study were diagnosed with diabetes, high blood pressure, congestive heart failure, high cholesterol or asthma/chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). The research found significant differences between adherent and non-adherent employees in the number of short-term disability days taken for all conditions studied, and between adherent and non-adherent employees in the number of absenteeism days for those with diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and asthma/COPD.

Ginger Carls, PhD, senior research leader at Truven Health Analytics and co-author of the study, commented, "The results provide a clear message that employees with common chronic conditions who take their medications as directed miss fewer days at work, resulting in potential cost savings for employers."

This study is a product of ongoing CVS Caremark-sponsored research that is focused on understanding why many consumers do not take their prescriptions as directed, and developing solutions to assist patients in using their medications effectively.  Annual excess health care costs due to medication non-adherence in the United States are estimated to be as much as $300 billion annually, CVS Caremark noted.

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