PHARMACY

CMS report finds lower health spending growth in 2012; generic drugs touted as ‘critical to cost control’

BY Alaric DeArment

WASHINGTON — Growth in health spending has slowed in recent years, including spending by private and public payers, according to data released Monday by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services that also found a small contribution to the lower growth from the healthcare reform law.

In a report published in the journal Health Affairs, the CMS Office of the Actuary said overall national health expenditures grew by 3.7% in 2012, marking a fourth consecutive year of low growth, while health spending as a share of the gross domestic product fell to 17.2% from 17.3% in 2011.

Private health insurance spending increased by 3.2%, less than 2011’s 3.4%, while Medicare spending increased by 4.8%, down from 5% in 2011, despite an increase in enrollment. In Medicaid, spending grew by 3.3%, which was higher than in 2011, but it reflected low overall growth rates resulting from improved economic conditions and efforts by state governments to rein in costs.

"For the second straight year, we have seen overall healthcare costs grow slower than the economy as a whole," CMS administrator Marilyn Tavenner said. "This is good news. We will continue to work with tools given to us by the Affordable Care Act that will both help us control costs for taxpayers and consumers while increasing the quality of care."

The contribution to lower growth in overall spending from the healthcare reform law was described as "limited" because reforms were still being implemented in 2012.

In addition, prescription drug spending experienced low growth of 0.4% thanks to many branded drugs losing patent protection and the resulting availability of generics.

The Generic Pharmaceutical Association, a trade group representing generic drug makers, said generic drugs were "critical to cost control," pointing to a report it commissioned from IMS Health and released in December showing that generic drugs have saved the U.S. economy $1.2 trillion over the past decade.

"As 2014 witnesses extensive changes in the health landscape, the role of generic medicines in providing patient savings and access to affordable care is critical and unquestionable," GPhA president and CEO Ralph Neas said. "A large proportion of patient and consumer savings is attributable to the increased use of generic medicines, and a decrease in overall spending on prescription drugs."

 

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PHARMACY

Big Y, En-Vision America partner on adherence tool for visually impaired

BY Michael Johnsen

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. — Big Y pharmacies and En-Vision America have recently partnered on a pair of novel programs designed to improve compliance among seniors with impaired vision. 

"The pharmacists are engaging with all patients and making them aware of this new service," Jan Winn, Big Y director of pharmacy, HABC and GM, shared with DSN. "The larger print labels are a big hit with the ‘babyboom’ generation."

For elderly patients, Big Y is offering En-Vision America’s ScripView, which features large-print medicine labels, and ScripTalk, which provides audio instructions regarding their medicines. 

ScripView contains all the same information as a medicines’s traditional label, but in large print for those with low vision. 

The ScripTalk label is embedded with a microchip that, when paired with a small hand-held reader that is free to the patient, reads the prescription instructions aloud, including patient name, drug name and instructions and pharmacy contact information.

“These labels give patients independence," stated Anna McClure, director of marketing at En-Vision America. “We are so excited to work with innovative pharmacies across the country that are providing accessible prescriptions to their patients. There are stories all the time of terrible mix-ups and mistakes. Our goal is to ensure it never happens again.”  

“Big Y is proud to provide this new service to our vision–impaired customers,” commented Nicole Schneider, senior manager of pharmacy operations. “We are constantly seeking new ways to enhance our customers’ pharmacy experience and this is just one simple way we can help our customers remain safe when taking their prescription medications.”

 

 

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ACOs’ readiness to achieve cost, quality goals in medication use mixed, study finds

BY Alaric DeArment

WASHINGTON — The ability of accountable care organizations to promote optimal use of medications has not yet been fully developed, according to a new study.

The study, published in the Journal of Managed Care Pharmacy, received responses from 46 ACOs representing physicians, hospitals, providers and health plans. The National Pharmaceutical Council, the American Medical Group Association and healthcare company Premier conducted the study, publishing it in the January 2014 issue of the journal. ACOs, in which groups of healthcare providers collaborate in patient care, have been touted as a way to improve the quality of care and reduce costs.

According to the study, while ACOs showed a strong ability to transmit prescriptions electronically, integrate medical and pharmacy data into a single database and offer formularies that encourage generic drugs when appropriate, some areas that need improvement include notifying physicians when prescriptions have been filled, protocols to avoid medication duplication and polypharmacy and quantify the cost offsets of medication use and demonstrate the value of appropriate medication use.

"We’ve long known that optimal use of medications can be an effective tool in meeting the goals of managing costs and improving quality," NPC chief science officer and study author Robert Dubois said. "We set out to determine whether ACOs are poised to maximize the value of medications to achieve those goals. What we found was that ACOs have not yet achieved this integral and critical component of care."

Another contributing author, Premier managing principal of pharmacy consulting and senior director of medication management Marv Feldman, said, "For ACOs to reach their full potential, the various moving parts of healthcare delivery — primary care, hospital care, home care, chronic condition management and medication use — will have to be used in concert."

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