Medication nonadherence—when a patient’s use of prescribed pharmaceuticals for a given condition does not meet established guidelines or provider recommendations—undermines the effectiveness of treatments. Recent efforts to improve adherence have shown promise, but the implications for how improved adherence will impact patients’ lost work time is not well known.

To help employers understand the business's value of medication adherence, IBI reviewed the literature linking medication adherence to productivity outcomes for different diseases, medications and types of lost work time. The review looked at thirteen peer-reviewed articles focused on twelve conditions, incidental sick-day absences (absenteeism), and disability leaves from work.

While the studies provide mixed evidence that adherence-related improvements in health can reduce illness-related lost productivity in the short term, the most consistent evidence found a relationship between adherence and improved short-term disability (STD) outcomes—particularly among patients with diabetes.

Overall, the review suggests that employers could reduce costly productivity losses by increasing rates of adherence among employees with certain chronic conditions. Taken alongside findings from other research showing medication adherence reduces hospitalizations, emergency department visits, and provider office visits, the savings could be substantial.