PHARMACY

USP recommends prescription labeling be standardized

BY Alaric DeArment

ROCKVILLE, Md. An advisory panel of the U.S. Pharmacopeial Convention has recommended standardizing prescription labeling so patients can more easily understand the instructions, USP said.

USP, a nonprofit organization that sets standards for the identity, strength, quality and purity of medicines in the United States, cited Institute of Medicine statistics indicating that limited health literacy affects 90 million adults, thus reducing their ability to benefit from the healthcare system.

“Patients have the right to understand health information that is necessary to safely care for themselves and their families,” USP Health Literacy Prescription Container Labeling Advisory Panel co-chairwoman Joanne Schwartzberg said. “Confusing medication labels is one area that can be improved considerably. As most of us who have ever received a prescription drug know, the contact and appearance of medication labels can vary widely.”

Recommendations included simplifying language on labels by eliminating unfamiliar terms and unclear medical jargon, using explicit language to describe dosing and interval instructions and improving readability by using clearer fonts.

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Medco: Just using LABAs to treat asthma puts patients at risk

BY Alaric DeArment

FRANKLIN LAKES, N.J. Nearly one-third of patients with asthma are taking their medications in a way that puts them at risk for worsening symptoms and death, according to a new study by pharmacy benefit manager Medco Health Solutions.

The study, by the company’s research and pulmonary therapeutic resource divisions, found that 31% of patients were taking long-acting beta agonists alone, not combining them with other asthma control drugs, despite warnings by the Food and Drug Administration. The drugs, also known as LABAs, include Foradil (formoterol fumarate), by Merck and Novartis, and GlaxoSmithKline’s Serevent (salmeterol xinafoate), the two drugs included in the study. Data from the study were presented at the 2010 Eastern Allergy Conference and coincided with National Asthma and Allergy Awareness Month.

 

“We’ve identified a gap in care that needs to be shared with the medical community in order to improve patient health and reduce the rate of preventable hospitalizations and emergency room visits,” Medco Therapeutic Resource Centers president Peter Juhn said. “This study demonstrates that specialized care can significantly improve clinical outcomes when treating patients with asthma.”

 

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CVS Caremark’s Pharmacy Advisor seeks to improve diabetes care for PBM clients

BY Antoinette Alexander

WOONSOCKET, R.I. CVS Caremark has launched a new program, Pharmacy Advisor, which is aimed at strengthening pharmacy care for diabetes patients by improving member engagement through enhanced interactions with their pharmacists.

The program is being offered to the company’s PBM clients for implementation in 2011 based on positive results from a recently completed pilot. In addition to improvements in medication adherence rates and closing gaps in care, preliminary data also suggested the program can save employers on their healthcare-benefit costs, with an estimated annual savings of nearly $600 per member with diabetes. In general, a client with 50,000 employees — whose population has an average prevalence of diabetes — could save approximately $3.3 million a year, or up to $6 million a year if there is a high prevalence of the disease, the company stated.

The six-month pilot of the Pharmacy Advisor program was conducted in partnership with a large global steel company in which participating members with diabetes achieved significant improvements in closing gaps in care and medication adherence rates. The pilot program used a multi-step process to identify and counsel members about gaps in care and adherence issues. Results demonstrated that this process closed a significantly higher number of gaps in care compared with a control group who were not counseled (58% and 90% higher for phone and face-to-face counseling, respectively). In addition, members receiving counseling were more likely to be adherent in every targeted medication class.

“Diabetes is one of the most prevalent and expensive chronic diseases in the nation, costing the U.S. an estimated $174 billion a year,” stated Troyen Brennan, chief medical officer of CVS Caremark. “The Pharmacy Advisor program improves clinical care because we are able to identify and address pharmacy-related care issues that if left unattended could result in disease progression and increased health care costs. We are also better able to engage the member in their care through multiple contact points, providing counsel that can improve adherence and help members optimize their pharmacy benefit and find the most cost effective options.”

The Pharmacy Advisor program integrates the benefits of the PBM and the retail pharmacy to improve pharmacy care. The program applies health-information technology to identify members who are being treated for diabetes and engages them with targeted counseling and support through the channels they choose. Member outreach includes educational information, pharmacist-initiated phone calls, or face-to-face counseling with a pharmacist at a local CVS/pharmacy. In addition, evidence-based protocols are applied to review the member’s current treatment and determine if there are gaps in care or issues with medication adherence. Members are also presented with options and solutions to enable them to get the most out of their pharmacy benefit and identify opportunities for cost savings.

The company plans to expand Pharmacy Advisor program offerings to include other chronic diseases and types of interventions in the near future.

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