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ALEXANDRIA, Va. — The National Association of Chain Drug Stores has engaged its Rapid Response Program, issuing a letter to the editor to the Los Angeles Times to highlight the importance of maintaining prescription medication access to prevent patient health complications and the increased need for costly forms of health care.
Through the Rapid Response Program, NACDS proactively addresses media reports and other communications in the public domain in a way that raises awareness of the value of community pharmacies as the face of neighborhood healthcare.
NACDS responded to an Oct. 18 article in the Los Angeles Times, titled “CDC: Emergency Room Visits Surged in 2009.” The article described preliminary data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showing that emergency room visits rose nearly 10% to 136 million in 2009.
The text of the letter to the Los Angeles Times from NACDS president and CEO Steve Anderson follows:
If the human costs, financial burdens and inefficiency of skyrocketing emergency room visits are shocking to readers and policy-makers, then here is the really depressing news: It could get even worse.
Although not mentioned specifically in the article, repeated federal and state cuts affecting patients’ access to prescription medications through Medi-Cal stand to leave chronic conditions untreated. While cuts may appear to solve government accounting problems in the short term, they will explode deficits when passed-up prevention leads to greater health complications and costly forms of care, including in the emergency room.
It is more prudent to foster access to medications, and to programs like pharmacist-provided medication therapy management, which empowers patients to understand their medications, take them and do so in a manner that maximizes their effectiveness.
NACDS emphasizes that pharmacy is an effective partner in helping to control healthcare costs, as evidenced by success in such strategies as generic drug utilization. NACDS also emphasizes that neighborhood pharmacies provide unsurpassed value in healthcare delivery and that prescription drug costs should not be viewed in a vacuum.
For example, in North Carolina’s ChecKmeds NC program, face-to-face medication therapy management services for Medicare patients have delivered return-on-investment of $13.55 for every $1 invested, NACDS stated. In addition, according to the New England Journal of Medicine, when New Hampshire imposed prescription limits on its Medicaid population, the state experienced a 35% decrease in its prescription drug costs, but nursing home admissions increased by 60%.
In the private sector, a study conducted by Highmark, a Blue Cross/Blue Shield plan, found that an integrated medical and prescription drug benefit presents optimum savings to employers. Over a four-year period, medical expenses for employers that carved in the pharmacy prescription drug benefit were, on average, 6.2% lower than for those employers that carved out the benefit. The integrated medical and prescription drug benefit helped employers spend an annual average of 15.8% less in outpatient expenses and 7.7% less in emergency room expenses, for approximately $11.44 per member per month in cost avoidance.