The consequences are alarming.

For patients:

Not taking medication as prescribed leads to poor health outcomes, sometimes to a tragic extent. Studies show that approximately 125 000 deaths per year are due to medication non-adherence, and that only in the United States. Additionally, medication non-adherence is estimated to cause from 33% to 69% of medication-related hospital admissions.

For medical research:

Around 40% of patients enrolled in clinical studies do not follow their treatment after the first 150 days. That leads to longer, extremely costly trials that needs to include many patients to keep statistical power, but also to tedious data collection and suboptimal results. Studies have shown that improving adherence by one percent in a Phase III trial comes with an average cost saving of more than 333 000 US dollars.

For healthcare actors:

Poor adherence leads to decreased days on treatment and a higher unnecessary amount of treatment switches among patients, which weighs heavy on both manufacturer and payer budgets. On a global scale, non-adherence is estimated to reach a fully avoidable cost of 171 billion of dollars per year.

"Increasing the effectiveness of adherence interventions may have a far greater impact on the health of the population than any improvement in specific medical treatments."
(World Health Organization, 2003)

Sources.

World Health Organization
The New York Times
The New England Journal of Medicine
Applied Clinical Trials Online
Social Science Research Network
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