PHARMACY

CVS partnership may drive down healthcare costs

BY Antoinette Alexander

WHAT IT MEANS AND WHY IT’S IMPORTANT CVS Caremark’s Behavior Change Research Partnership with several leading universities is likely to yield some invaluable results for the industry at large because if CVS Caremark executives and the participating academic leaders can better understand customer behavior and develop ways to encourage improved healthy behaviors, then the end result likely will be lower healthcare costs.

(THE NEWS: CVS Caremark develops Behavior Change Research Partnership. For the full story, click here)

How will it lower costs? Through improved medication adherence and increased generic utilization.

Understanding why many patients fail to adhere to their prescription medication regimen and developing ways to effectively change their behavior is a major step toward eradicating this multi-billion dollar problem. It has been widely reported that non-adherence to essential medications is a frequent cause of preventable hospitalizations and patient illness, with costs to the U.S. healthcare system estimated at a whopping $300 billion annually.

Furthermore, a Wolters Kluwer Health study found that, in looking at U.S. commercial plan claims for 2008, prescription abandonment rose by 34% nationally compared with 2006 — jumping from an average of 5.15% in 2006 to 6.8% in 2008. The data also revealed that abandonment increased as the amount of the co-pay increased, especially for new prescriptions. Interestingly, this last fact leads into the second part of CVS Caremark’s Behavior Change Research Partnership: Why is it that when patients do take get their prescriptions filled some still opt for the pricey brand name when cheaper generic versions are available?

With price sensitivity being such a major factor in lack of adherence it is important to find out why some patients aren’t willing to take generic versions that may provide identical or similar health outcomes as the brand name drug. And with so many medications — especially blockbusters in major therapeutic areas like cholesterol reducers — coming off patent in the coming years the volume of generics will increase so it is critical to better understand consumer behavior as it relates to generics.

That’s not to say that generic medications haven’t made some significant headway in recent years. The Wolters Kluwer Health analysis found that generic medications continue to make gains over brands by grabbing more than 60% of all U.S. prescriptions filled in 2008. According to the data, there were 2.4 billion prescriptions filled for generic drugs versus 1.4 billion for brand-name medications.

This growth in generic medications has been driven, in part, by patient education programs and $4 generic drug programs.

Clearly, further research on consumer behavior and their opinion of generics medications will unlock additional opportunities and, at the end of the day, help curb healthcare costs.

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Bristol-Myers Squibb discusses pipeline with investors

BY Alaric DeArment

NEW YORK Aims of becoming a leader in biotechnology headlined a meeting Thursday between Bristol-Myers Squibb and investors as the drug maker highlighted a pipeline of late-stage and early-development drugs.

Like many big drug companies, Bristol has focused on beefing up its pipeline as it faces big patent expirations over the next few years, particularly for the anti-clotting drug Plavix (clopidogrel). The company has particularly high hopes for investigative compounds to treat Alzheimer’s disease and hepatitis C.

“I am fully confident in our ability to deliver on our three major strategic imperatives – driving our performance in the next few years, improving our earnings base in 2013 and sustaining growth in 2014 and beyond,” said Bristol president and COO Lamberto Andreotti, who will soon replace James Cornelius as CEO. “We have important strategic, operational and financial levers which will allow us to fully realize our potential as a biopharma leader, and to deliver on our near-term and long-term growth opportunities.”

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NCPA survey finds pharmacists helped customers weather the (winter) storm

BY Allison Cerra

ALEXANDRIA, Va. A recent survey by the National Community Pharmacists Association indicated that local pharmacists stepped up to the plate to make sure that patients’ healthcare needs were met during the 2009-2010 winter season.

NCPA polled 85 community pharmacies in 26 snow-plagued states over a seven-day period in February, while much of the East Coast was still digging out from snow storms and some areas braced for additional winter precipitation.

The survey findings reveal a deep commitment to continue serving patients despite the trying circumstances:

  • 79% managed to maintain normal business hours, with some pharmacies opening early or staying late as necessary. Some used generators to supply power and remain open. Others extended phone services to meet emergency needs
  • 36% expanded their pharmacy’s home delivery service area to accommodate additional patients. Sometimes this included traversing unplowed roads in four-wheel-drive vehicles or picking up groceries for homebound patients
  • 45% witnessed an increase in the number of patients needing emergency fills due to the lack of mail service. Meeting this need usually required either contacting the physician or a lengthy phone call to the insurance company or pharmacy benefit manager for an override. In other cases, pharmacists provided a short-term supply at no cost to the patient and without reimbursement to the community pharmacy.

“These community pharmacists truly stepped up when the patient need was greatest,” said Joseph Harmison, NCPA president. “That commitment is one reason why pharmacists are consistently among the public’s most-trusted professions.”

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