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About $290 billion a year. That’s what Americans’ rampant nonadherence to their prescription medication therapy is costing the country each year in medical bills and lost work, according to national estimates. So getting patients to stick with their drug regimens is a huge challenge, not only for pharmacists in all practice settings, but for the entire healthcare provider network and the U.S. economy.
The adherence issue already is red hot as Congress, federal health policy-makers, and the publicly funded and employer-sponsored health plans paying most of the nation’s healthcare bills finally wake up to the fact that improving adherence rates will save gobs of money by keeping patients healthier and out of emergency rooms. That means involving pharmacists more directly in patient interventions and long-term medication therapy management. And starting soon, it’s going to mean some changes in the pharmacy school curriculum as educators focus more heavily on adherence.
The pharmacy education community signaled as much last week with the announcement of a new partnership with independent pharmacists. To wit: The American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy and the National Community Pharmacists Association are joining forces to launch what they’ve dubbed the Medication Adherence Educators Challenge.
The challenge will feature grants and idea sharing, and will culminate at a joint AACP-NCPA Medication Adherence Educators Symposium on July 18 in Kissimmee, Fla.
The immediate goal: to improve the way pharmacy schools prepare tomorrow’s practitioners for what will surely be a massive drive to boost patient adherence. The underlying goal: to help keep the nation’s overstretched, massively costly health system from heading over a fiscal cliff.
The benefits of improved adherence rates could be profound. One study from CVS Caremark found that patients with one or more of four chronic diseases who take their medications as prescribed could save the healthcare system as much as $7,800 per patient each year.
That means that adherence will be one of the defining issues of the pharmacy profession over the next decade. As a pharmacist, you’ll be on the front line of this battle.
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