PHARMACY

The next blockbuster? It’s called just taking drugs as prescribed

BY Alaric DeArment

A new report shows that drug makers lose nearly $200 billion per year from medication nonadherence, illustrating that it’s not just the healthcare system overall that loses when people don’t take their medications properly.

This just goes to show the important role that pharmacy retailers have in helping to promote medication adherence by having pharmacists play an active role in patients’ health care through services like medication therapy management.

At the Drug Store News Industry Issues Summit’s Specialty Pharmacy Roundtable two years ago, Diplomat Specialty Pharmacy CEO Phil Hagerman said that improving medication adherence in specialty pharmacy could be equivalent to the introduction of a new blockbuster drug. A report released Friday by the Congressional Budget Office further bears this out, indicating that even a 1% increase in the prescriptions filled by Medicare beneficiaries would reduce the program’s spending on medical services by 0.2% by reducing costs in such areas as hospitalizations.

Pharmacy retailers have been on the front lines of efforts to improve adherence. Rite Aid has made the pharmacy the central feature of its Wellness store format, including private consultation rooms where patients can comfortably discuss their prescriptions and engage in MTM sessions with pharmacists. Meanwhile, CVS and Walgreens have conducted extensive research on the effects of programs like 90-day medication refills on adherence.

Medications won’t work if patients don’t take them properly or don’t take them at all, and this is a major reason why many people’s medical conditions don’t improve or even get worse. But when pharmacists take the time to sit down with patients and explain how patients should use medications and why they should use them, it can save both lives and money.

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PHARMACY

Prescription drugs lower Medicare costs, CBO study finds

BY Alaric DeArment

WASHINGTON — Increasing the prescriptions filled by Medicare beneficiaries by 1% would reduce the program’s spending on medical services by about 0.2% by reducing costs in such areas as hospitalizations, according to a new report by the Congressional Budget Office.

The report, "Offsetting Effects of Prescription Drug Use on Medicare’s Spending for Medical Services," contrasted with previous CBO studies that found insufficient evidence of an "offsetting" effect of prescription drug use on medical services spending.

In response to the report, the National Community Pharmacists Association, a trade group representing independent pharmacies, highlighted what it called pharmacists’ role in reducing costs in the Medicare program through services like using generics and helping to ensure compliance and adherence.

"We commend CBO for acknowledging the growing body of evidence verifying what community pharmacists have known for some time," NCPA CEO B. Douglas Hoey said. "Namely, that the more patients have their prescriptions filled and adhere to medications their doctors prescribe, the healthier they will be, and the likelihood of costlier interventions — including hospitalizations — diminishes, reducing healthcare costs."


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FDA approves new medullary thyroid cancer drug

BY Alaric DeArment

SILVER SPRING, Md. — The Food and Drug Administration has approved a new drug made by Exelixis for treating thyroid cancer, the agency said.

The FDA announced the approval of Cometriq (cabozatinib) to treat medullary thyroid cancer — a cancer that develops in cells in the thyroid gland that make calcitonin, a hormone that helps maintain a healthy level of calcium in the blood — that has spread to other parts of the body. Another drug to treat medullary thyroid cancer, AstraZeneca’s Caprelsa (vandetanib), was approved last year.

"Cometriq is the second drug approved to treat medullary thyroid cancer in the past two years and reflects the FDA’s commitment to the development and approval of drugs for treating rare diseases," FDA Office of Hematology and Oncology Products director Richard Pazdur said. "Prior to today’s approval and the approval of Caprelsa in April 2011, patients with this rare and difficult-to-treat disease had limited therapeutic options."

The National Cancer Institute estimated that 56,460 Americans will be diagnosed with thyroid cancer — and 1,780 will die from it — in 2012.


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