The costliest diseases in terms of total U.S. pharmacy spend, in order, are diabetes, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure. As our population ages and obesity is more prevalent, this trifecta will only cause more damage.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 45% of adults have diabetes, high cholesterol or high blood pressure, either diagnosed or yet to be detected.
While the diseases may appear to be markedly different, they have a lot in common:
- Comorbidity: In medicine, comorbidity is the presence of one or more diseases in addition to a primary disease. Approximately 13% of Americans suffer from two of the three conditions and almost 3% live with diabetes, high cholesterol AND high blood pressure.
- Risk Factor: Excess body weight can contribute to all three conditions. A majority (63.1%) of U.S. adults are overweight or obese. Even more concerning, the obesity rate for children has tripled since the mid-1970s.
- The Role of Behavior: Diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure can be managed through healthier behavior: maintaining a balanced diet and exercise program, avoiding smoking and staying adherent to therapy and medication. In terms of prevention, the World Health Organization (WHO) reports that eliminating just three behavioral risk factors – being overweight or obese, getting insufficient exercise and smoking – would prevent 80% of heart disease, stroke and diabetes.
- Low Adherence Rates: Despite recommendations and benefits of taking medications as prescribed, 39% of patients suffering from one of the top three conditions are nonadherent. Besides the negative health effects, the national cost of nonadherence for these diseases alone is more than $105.8 billion each year.