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Excellus report shows not taking prescriptions is costly

Rochester Business Journal
August 12, 2014

Upstate New Yorkers who fail to adhere to prescriptions written by their doctors for blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol and depression add billions in avoidable health care costs annually, a report by Excellus BlueCross BlueShield shows.

"The opportunity for health improvement and real cost savings is nothing short of astounding," said Mona Chitre, vice president and chief pharmacy officer.

Among the four conditions studied, high blood pressure posed the highest direct medical costs attributed to non-adherence, the report states. Roughly 388,000 upstate adults who are non-adherent 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—roughly one-third do not take prescribed medication as directed.

Excellus officials said by improving prescription adherence among Upstate New York adults by 5 percent to 10 percent would result in medical cost savings of:

  • $176 million to $352 million for high blood pressure,
  • $64.1 million to $128.1 million for high cholesterol,
  • $54.5 million to $109 million for diabetes, and
  • $8.8 million to $17.7 million for depression.

"Hundreds of thousands of Upstate New Yorkers who have the four conditions we reviewed are not getting the real benefit of their medicines, and there are many other medical conditions we didn't evaluate, so the numbers are understated," Chitre said. "To stay healthy, patients who have medical conditions should take their medicines as directed by their physicians. Doing so will also help them avoid hospitalizations and other treatments."

Excellus has a campaign aimed at reminding people to take their prescriptions. It features a superhero pill bottle named TAD, an acronym for take as directed.

Excellus on Friday hopes to set a record and draw attention to medication adherence at a Rochester Red Wings game. The goal is to set the record for having the most people wearing superhero capes and doing the wave.

At the game, Red Wings staff will hand out blue TAD superhero capes to the first 5,000 fans entering the stadium.

“We’re asking our fans to help us fight for good health as the Red Wings fight for a win over the Syracuse Chiefs,” said Dan Mason, general manager of the Rochester Red Wings.

(c) 2014 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email


What You're Saying 

Margie Campaigne at 11:20:25 AM on 8/13/2014
I just wonder "why" people are not taking their meds. Did their physician go over the benefits and possible side effects with them? Did the side effects manifest and the patient did not want to deal with them? Was it a question of expense? I find some physicians to be almost...  Read More >
Marylou Errico at 1:52:40 PM on 8/15/2014
I truly believe that they are not taking their meds due to the cost...people are rationing meds. The meds are expensive and people believe that as long as take "some" it will be ok. Many meds are not covered by health care plans and worse yet if there is no generic form t...  Read More >

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