Report says U.S. could save billions by getting diabetes patients to take their meds

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Worldwide, less than half of Type 2 diabetes patients are taking their medicines in an "optimal" manner, according to a new report, leaving plenty of room for improvement for stakeholders seeking to reduce the billions of dollars associated with poor drug adherence.

With a look at 6 countries including the U.K., the U.S., Germany and Brazil, the IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics said "sub-optimal" drug adherence is resulting in a "significant economic and societal burden" plus "avoidable" disease complications for patients. According to the group, on average, less than 40% of patients around the world are fully complying with their treatment instructions. For the markets studied, adherence ranged from 46% to 77%.

That patient disconnect means billions in avoidable spending to treat complications when diabetics don't take their glucose-lowering meds or follow other practices like diet and exercise, with the amount varying in each country. It ranged from 4% on the low end to 15% on the high end.

In the U.S. Medicare population, $4 billion--or 4% of the U.S. total healthcare spend--was associated with poor Type 2 diabetes adherence and the related complications, according to the report.

Additionally, the IMS Institute found, many existing diabetes strategies aren’t zeroing in on adherence. With that in mind, the authors suggest steps to improve the situation such as identifying patients in need of help, offering customized education and applying new technology to guide patients through managing their care.

“Simple, customized interventions that put patients on the path to optimal adherence and persistence can yield tangible results, but require alignment between healthcare and government leaders, as well as the active involvement of voluntary associations and the private sector,” IMS Institute director Murray Aitken said in a statement.

Likely to be ready to listen to the suggestions are health officials who've been seeking ways to pay for new, groundbreaking medicines without breaking the bank. Cutting down on avoidable costs would seem to make an approachable target in that effort.

Diabetes med sales are already on the rise. Just this month, GlobalData said it expects worldwide diabetes sales to shoot to $60 billion by 2025, nearly double last year’s tally. In the best position to benefit from that growth, the analysts predict, are Novo Nordisk ($NVO) and Eli Lilly ($LLY) with their GLP-1 drugs Victoza and Trulicity, respectively. Novo also has its semaglutide, set for an FDA filing this year, and a once-daily oral form of the medicine, dubbed a “game-changer” by GlobalData. But meds in the SGLT2 class should grow too, the report said, making it hard for DPP-4s to achieve the same level of success they've enjoyed of late. That’s good news for Lilly’s Jardiance and Johnson & Johnson’s ($JNJ) Invokana, but potentially bad news for Merck’s ($MRK) Januvia franchise.

- here's the release

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