Study quantifies insurance costs of adults who do not stick to their osteoporosis treatments

Osteoporosis treatments can be wide ranging and include hormone replacement, prescription medications and physical therapy. However, many health experts - supported by new statistical findings - warn that going off these treatments can entail serious costs.

A study published in the Journal of Managed Care Pharmacy found that elderly women who do not adhere closely to their osteoporosis treatment plans can incur between 12 and 18 percent higher medical costs.

The former percentage was determined for those on commercial insurance plans and the latter for those who use Medicare Advantage (MA), indicating that poor upkeep of osteoporosis treatment can cost taxpayers as well as private enrollees.

To derive these figures, the study's authors looked at insurance claims data for more than 25,000 adults. Those on commercial plans were 60 years old on average, while the mean age for MA users was 75.

Adherence to medication was defined as "high" if patients were found to possess their medications at least 80 percent of the time, while "low" indicated a possession rate under 50 percent.

Previous studies have shown that more than half of all women with osteoporosis adhere to their treatment plans at the low rate.

The study's authors had theorized that women with low adherence would be more likely to experience fractures. They found that people on commercial plans were one-third more likely to have a fracture if they did not take their medication as prescribed.

Researchers also determined that both insured groups were 59 percent more likely to be hospitalized if they did not adhere to their treatments.

The study concluded that since adherence tends to decrease over time, more attention should be paid to the regularity with which osteoporotic patients take their medications. Monitoring adherence could drive down medical costs, the team added.

More than $19 billion was spent in the U.S. on osteoporosis-related fractures in 2005, a figure expected to rise to more than $25 billion by 2025, according to the National Osteoporosis Foundation.