CVS Caremark: Patients believe specialty pharmacy team encourages medication adherence

WOONSOCKET, R.I. Many pharmacy patients believe that their specialty pharmacy team plays an important role in encouraging them to take their specialty medications as prescribed, according to the results of a recent CVS Caremark study.

The telephone survey, which was completed in August 2009 and included responses from more than 700 respondents, found that nearly 70% of respondents believe their specialty pharmacy team instrumental in encouraging medication adherence. The findings place the specialty pharmacy team at the forefront of managing adherence for these patients, behind only the patient's physician and his/her staff and the patient's friends and family in terms of influence.

Specialty pharmaceuticals are typically injectable or infused drugs requiring special handling and used in the management of chronic, rare and complex conditions such as multiple sclerosis or rheumatoid arthritis. Because these medications are often expensive, generally require special handling, require training for proper administration and can cause bothersome side effects, patients can face many barriers to medication adherence and persistency.

"Our patients' belief that their specialty pharmacy team plays a key role in adherence, along with results showing that 93.5% of patients indicated that they were satisfied with CVS Caremark specialty pharmacy services, clearly validate the benefits of the patient-focused, high-touch services we provide," stated Scott Reid, SVP of CVS Caremark specialty pharmacy operations. "This support begins when a patient first enrolls with CVS Caremark specialty pharmacy, and is assigned a pharmacist-led care team that provides personalized care and therapy management including ongoing counseling, education and adherence management."

While the survey found that the vast majority of patients surveyed indicated that they take their specialty medications as prescribed (97%) and believe that taking their medications as prescribed is important to maintain their quality of life (96%), patients still identified a variety of factors that impacted their medication adherence, including: cost/state of the economy (32%), changes to the patient's schedule or routine (19%) and side effects (12%). In addition, while results varied depending on the therapies prescribed, those respondents taking a medication for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis or multiple sclerosis who agreed that their specialty pharmacy team and/or specialty pharmacist is important in encouraging them to take their medications as prescribed were 35.9% less likely to stop therapy than those who did not recognize the role of the specialty pharmacy.

CVS Caremark specialty pharmacy care yeams are comprised of pharmacists and pharmacy service representatives. These professionals are focused on the treatment of a particular condition and undergo training and education related to their therapeutic area. This team works directly with the patient at the start of therapy to coordinate a comprehensive overview, including: review of dosing and medication schedules, discussion of side effects and how to manage or alleviate them, review of potential drug/drug or drug/food interactions, assessment of the patient's ability to self-administer medication and identification of potential barriers to care. The care team reinforces the physician's instructions to make sure the patient safely and effectively administers their prescribed medication. In addition, the team also works to positively impact patient adherence by proactively calling patients to identify gaps in adherence to their regimen. When indicated, care team members will use strategies and tactics to encourage and enable their patient to return to their prescribed regimen, and will also communicate with the patient's physician to discuss an appropriate course of action.

The Olinger Group, an external market research firm, conducted the survey. Survey participants were randomly selected and represented patients on three drug classes, including human growth hormone, multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis.

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