MAP: The 50 States of Pharmacy Waste

Oct 15, 2012
A state-by-state breakdown of the $408 billion of pharmacy waste in the country. Mississippi, Texas and Arizona represent the highest per-capita waste.

At Express Scripts, we define “waste” in the pharmacy benefit as any expenditure that doesn’t provide a health benefit. These unnecessary costs could be avoided by patients engaging in the following behaviors:

  • Taking medications as their doctors prescribe (adherence)
  • Using the lowest-cost clinically effective medication (generics or lower cost brands)
  • Using the safest, most cost-effective pharmacy (home delivery for long term maintenance medications)

Because many patients fail to engage in these three behaviors, the healthcare system is overrun with unnecessary spending. In 2011 alone, suboptimal pharmacy-related behavior by U.S. consumers wasted more than $408 billion – equivalent to more than $1,300 for each American. These enormous and avoidable costs provide no additional health benefit.

total pharmacy waste by state

As demonstrated by the band of orange in the map, the southern portion of the country represents the highest per-capita pharmacy waste, with Mississippi ($1,504.70 per person), Texas ($1,480.17) and Arizona ($1,479.17) leading the way. In contrast, the states with the lowest pharmacy waste are Vermont ($892.78), Minnesota ($947.53) and Maine ($968.16).

While it’s not fair to say that the northern states are “better” at using the pharmacy – a statement like that would imply that diseases are equally prevalent in each state, which of course they aren’t – we can say that the southern states pay the highest price for inefficient pharmacy behaviors.

The largest component of pharmacy waste is nonadherence. Approximately $317.4 billion was wasted last year on unnecessary medical spending – hospital admissions, ER visits, lab tests, etc.– that could have been avoided if patients would have simply taken their medications as their doctor prescribed.

At Express Scripts, we continue to drive toward better health outcomes and zero pharmacy waste. It’s an ambitious goal but one that we get closer to each year with our clinical and behavioral innovations.

Author Bio

Lab Staff
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