Study: Walgreens Specialty Pharmacy can cut infusion medication costs by more than half
DEERFIELD, Ill. — Walgreens Specialty Pharmacy on Thursday released data showing that both patients and their health plans can realize savings of up to 60% on the cost of infused specialty medications by choosing alternate treatment sites. The cost savings was the key finding from new data being presented at the 2012 Pharmacy Benefit Management Institute Annual Drug Benefit Conference in Scottsdale, Ariz.
An analysis of Walgreens internal data shows the opportunity for significant cost savings when health plans and patients shift infusion services from high-cost sites-of-care, such as outpatient hospital settings, to lower-cost sites, such as Walgreens Specialty Care Centers or other alternate treatment locations. The Walgreens analysis focused on sites-of-care for infused specialty medications, which can cost between $500 and $20,000 per treatment. The top 10 specialty medications being infused at outpatient hospitals included eight chemotherapy and two nonchemotherapy agents. The study found that outpatient hospital drug costs were, on average, 86% higher than costs at alternate sites, and that the two nonchemotherapy infusions alone were able to deliver $6.3 million in savings per 1 million commercial health plan beneficiaries per year.
“Considering the heightened focus on healthcare cost reductions, the most notable finding is that there are significant opportunities to reduce costs simply by having patients receive their health services at an alternate location,” said Michael Einodshofer, director of utilization management at Walgreens Specialty Pharmacy. “The potential benefits go beyond saving money, as lower-cost alternate treatment sites can help improve medication compliance and provide more convenient patient access to treatment, without compromising quality or safety.”
Two of the biggest hurdles to using alternate treatment sites are lack of awareness of available options and limited awareness of the benefits, Einodshofer added. In many cases, an alternate treatment site could be a patient’s home or place of employment. Walgreens is one of the largest home infusion providers, offering access to patient care in their homes, workplace health centers, and Walgreens Specialty Care Centers across the country. These alternate treatment sites provide convenient, cost-effective access to patients who require monitored infusible and injectable medications.
“We recognize that many physicians are looking for alternate sites for their patients’ infusions, and that health plans and patients are looking for new high quality and cost-effective options,” Einodshofer said. “The major benefits of the Walgreens site-of-care optimization management plan are that patients continue to receive their necessary medications uninterrupted; healthcare providers continue to prescribe specialty medications without any new administrative burden; and payer costs have been shown to drop significantly.”
Kudos to Walgreen's for driving home the point the rest of the home infusion providers have been advocating since the late 1970's, that is, complex infusion therapies can be provided at significantly lower costs in sites other than an acute or sub-acute care setting. As a pioneer infusion provider for over 27 years, our initial goal was to provide our infusion therapies in the home at a rate of 25% of what the current hospital charges were in 1984. Our success and growth affirms that we met and continually exceed that expectation. What continues to puzzle me is why Medicare never adopted a pure home infusion therapy benefit. Perhaps under the leadership of Walgreen's and specifically Kermit Crawford, we will see significantly increased opportunity for all infusion providers while helping to curb the runaway healthcare costs born by the Federal government.
Express Scripts plays down Walgreens impact
ST. LOUIS — Express Scripts chairman and CEO George Paz on Thursday played down the impact of Walgreens’ exit from its pharmacy network.
"Roughly 20% of our book had been in Walgreens stores, and almost all of that was scheduled to move," he said, noting that Express Scripts beefed up its client and member experience teams to handle both the transitioning from Walgreens along with the annual plan changes across Medicare and private providers at the top of each year to the point of overstaffing. "We needed to make sure that every member who calls in, that was looking for a convenient outlet or a way to process their prescriptions, whether it was a movement to mail or to another retailer, that we would make sure we could handle that."
However, without Walgreens, between 98.4% and 98.5% of Express Scripts’ business now is in what Paz defined as a narrow network. "At the end of the day, taking out a large retailer like this, in effect speaks to a narrow network. We don’t have [Walgreens] in," he said. "Our clients are very supportive," he added, stating that narrower networks "do work."
And just as Walgreens has stated it is moving forward without Express Scripts, so too is Express Scripts moving forward without Walgreens. During the Thursday morning analyst call, Paz suggested that the clinical offerings fielded by Walgreens "hasn’t been proven to reduce cost."
Express Scripts reported Wednesday in its full year 2011 review that adjusted claims totaled 751.5 million, down slightly from 2010, and is projecting claims for 2012 to be flat to slightly higher by 2%. The company deferred any further projections until after its merger with Medco, which the company is confident will be concluded in the first half of this year.
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AACP, NCPA sponsor contest to spawn best practices on adherence education
ALEXANDRIA, Va. — The American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy and the National Community Pharmacists Association are focusing on the issue of medication adherence with the announcement of a joint pharmacy educators challenge and half-day symposium that will highlight the best practices in teaching medication adherence.
The Medication Adherence Educators Challenge is the first effort of its kind and is aimed at better understanding the resources and teaching strategies currently being utilized to prepare student pharmacists to detect, monitor and improve medication adherence in pharmacy practice. It calls upon schools to submit their teaching tools in the area of medication adherence, including tools currently used in the curriculum and experiential learning, as well as ideas and concepts still in development.
“This challenge and symposium provide an unprecedented opportunity for faculty members to share their medication adherence education tools, as well as to strategically think about innovative teaching methods that could be utilized by academic pharmacy and other health professions in the future,” AACP EVP and CEO Lucinda Maine said.
The three challenge categories include didactic, laboratory and experiential educational teaching tools, with consideration given to entries designed to assist students in planning and applying an adherence intervention strategy. The submissions will be judged by representatives from AACP and NCPA. Three submissions will be chosen as the challenge winners. Each winning school will receive a $1,000 award, and each submitting author will receive a $500 honorarium.
The deadline for challenge entries is March 30. More information about the challenge, including the submission guidelines, may be found on the AACP website. A symposium agenda as well as pre-registration for the symposium will be available in May 2012, the association said.
The most innovative tools will be presented as part of a joint AACP-NCPA Medication Adherence Educators Symposium on July 18 in Kissimmee, Fla. The half-day symposium dedicated to adherence teaching will be held in conjunction with AACP’s 2012 Annual Meeting at the Gaylord Palms Resort, and will provide pharmacy faculty members the chance to share best practices, resources, and teaching strategies currently being used to teach medication adherence.
In addition to working with AACP, NCPA recently launched Simplify My Meds, a personalized coordinated refill program that facilitates improved adherence by aligning a patient’s prescriptions to be filled on the same day each month. The model decreases regimen complexity and reduces the risk of gaps in therapy.
NCPA and AACP also are committed partners of the National Consumers League’s Script Your Future campaign, a public education campaign to raise awareness among patients about the consequences of not taking medication as directed. AACP recently co-sponsored the Script Your Future Medication Adherence Challenge, which engaged student pharmacists in raising public awareness about medication adherence.
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