New recommendations focus on relatively inexpensive fixes that could significantly reduce health-care waste.
Last week, we explained how the United States spends $750 billion a year on wasted health care. Much of that comes from administrative costs and the ordering of unnecessary medical procedures.
But another major source of waste doesn't show up until after the doctor's visit. According to a meta-analysis published yesterday in the Annals of Internal Medicine, Americans are failing to comply with medication prescriptions for a variety of reasons -- and it's costing them anywhere between $100 billion to $289 billion a year.
In some 20 percent of cases -- and as many as 30 percent -- prescriptions for medication are never filled. Up to 50 percent of medications aren't taken as prescribed.
Medication noncompliance creates major headaches for patients and doctors alike down the road, and can sometimes be deadly. For example, someone with congestive heart failure who doesn't take their diuretics correctly, regularly, will often wind up in the hospital again and again. Failure to follow prescriptions causes some 125,000 deaths a year and up to 10 percent of all hospitalizations, the study's authors say.