PHARMACY

CVS Caremark-sponsored research examines impact of social support network on Rx adherence

BY Antoinette Alexander

WOONSOCKET, R.I. — A patient’s social support network has been associated with improved outcomes and healthier behaviors and now new research sponsored by CVS Caremark has found that practical social support is associated with improved medication adherence.

"The growing popularity of online social networking has raised the question of how social connectedness can impact a person’s health and whether it plays any role in improving medication adherence," stated Niteesh K. Choudhry, associate physician in the Division of Pharmacoepidemiology and Pharmacoeconomics at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and associate professor of Harvard Medical School. "Our research suggests that leveraging a patient’s existing social contacts and networks to help them with the practical aspects of being adherent, such as providing transportation to the pharmacy or picking up medications for the patient, could be both an effective and cost-effective way to help improve adherence."

The clinical and financial impact of medication non-adherence on the U.S. health care system — estimated at nearly $300 billion a year — has motivated numerous researchers to evaluate interventions to identify cost-effective best practices to address the issue. In addition, while a patient’s social support network has been associated with improved outcomes and healthier behaviors, the role a patient’s social connections and networks can play in improving medication adherence has not been well defined. Now, the new research sponsored by CVS Caremark has found that practical social support is associated with improved medication adherence.

The study, entitled Association Between Different Types of Social Support and Medication Adherence, was conducted by researchers at Harvard University, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and CVS Caremark and was published in the December 2012 issue of the American Journal of Managed Care.

The researchers reviewed 50 peer-reviewed articles about studies which directly measured the relationship between medication adherence and some form of social support. Four categories of social support for patients were identified and evaluated: structural, practical, emotional and a combination approach. The results indicate that greater practical support was more consistently associated with improved adherence to medication, with the majority of studies evaluating practical support (67%) identifying a significant association between the social support and medication adherence.

"This study is part of our ongoing research collaboration with Harvard and Brigham and Women’s Hospital to better understand the factors that impact medication adherence," stated Troyen Brennan, EVP and chief medical officer of CVS Caremark, who heads the research initiative that conducted the study. "While more research is needed to identify how best to apply these findings to patient care, these results suggest that practical support from a patient’s social network of family and friends can be a simple and cost effective way to improve medication adherence and chronic disease management for patients."

The four categories of social support identified in the research include:

  • Structural support — marital status, living arrangements and size of the patient’s social network;

  • Practical support — helping the patients by paying for medications, picking up prescriptions, reading labels, filling pill boxes and providing transportation;

  • Emotional support — providing encouragement and reassurance of worth, listening and providing spiritual support; and

  • Combination support — any combination of the three support structures listed above.
     

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PHARMACY

Experimental ALS drug fails in trial

BY Alaric DeArment

WESTON, Mass. — An experimental drug for Lou Gehrig’s disease made by Biogen Idec has failed in a late-stage clinical trial, the drug maker said Thursday.

Biogen announced results of its phase-3 trial of dexpramipexole in patients with the disease, known technically as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS. The drug failed to improve functioning and survival in patients and failed to show efficacy in key secondary endpoints as well, the company said.

"We share the disappointment of members of the ALS community, who had hoped that dexpramipexole would offer a meaningful new treatment option," Biogen Idec EVP research and development Douglas Williams said. "Nevertheless, the ‘EMPOWER’ trial represents a significant contribution to ALS research, and Biogen Idec is committed to advancing ALS science. We continue to work with researchers around the world to understand the causes of ALS and find potential treatments for people with ALS."

ALS causes a loss of muscle strength and coordination that deteriorates and makes tasks such as climbing steps, getting out of a chair and swallowing impossible. It is often called Lou Gehrig’s disease, after the baseball player who suffered from it; physicist Stephen Hawking also has the disease, which the National Institutes of Health estimates to affect five-in-100,000 people worldwide.


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PHARMACY

Rite Aid reports 2.2% decrease in comps for December

BY Alaric DeArment

CAMP HILL, Pa. — A shift in the New Year’s holiday calendar and the introduction of new generic drugs contributed to a decrease in same-store sales for the month of December at Rite Aid, the retail pharmacy chain said Thursday.

Rite Aid reported a 2.2% decrease in comps for the four-week period that ended Saturday, including a 1% decrease in front-end comps and a 2.9% decrease in pharmacy comps. The company said the calendar shift had a negative effect of 1.1% on front-end comps, while the decrease in pharmacy comps included a negative effect of 605 bps from new generic drug introductions. Same-store prescription count increased by 4.4%, including a 1.7% contribution from flu-related prescriptions and flu shots.

Guggenheim Partners analyst John Heinbockel said the results were in line with his firm’s expectations and reiterated Guggenheim’s "Buy" rating of Rite Aid’s stock, noting that the decline was driven largely by the generic wave, and the chain had continued to retain many of the scripts it won over during the Express Scripts-Walgreens dispute. Heinbockel also wrote that the decline in pharmacy comps was "modestly better" than the 4% drop he had forecasted. Rite Aid’s stock opened at $1.40 per share Thursday morning, unchanged from Wednesday’s closing price, falling to $1.38 in late Thursday afternoon trading.

Total sales for the four-week period decreased by 2.7%, to $2.054 billion, compared with $2.112 billion in December 2011.

Comps for the 43-week period that ended Saturday increased 0.1%, including a 1.4% increase in front-end comps and a 0.6% decrease in pharmacy comps, while same-store prescription count increased by 3.6%.

Total store sales for the 43-week period decreased by 0.6%, to $20.913 billion, compared with $21.030 billion during the same period in 2011.

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