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CVS Caremark survey: Pharmacists say cost is biggest barrier to Rx adherence


WOONSOCKET, R.I. — In recognition of American Pharmacists Month in October, CVS Caremark released results from a new survey of CVS retail pharmacists, which underscored that cost remains a key barrier to medication adherence and reinforced the important role of the pharmacist in helping people take their chronic medications as directed.

While there are many reasons people stop taking their medications, the majority of pharmacists surveyed (62%) said that the high cost of drugs currently is the biggest cause of nonadherence for their patients. Despite this barrier, the vast majority of respondents (89%) said they believed counseling their patients is as important as filling their prescriptions and the majority agreed (88%) that those patients who pick up their medications and receive first-hand counseling from their pharmacist were more likely to be adherent.

"Our own pharmacists confirm what we are learning from our research into medication adherence — that the pharmacist can be one of the most influential voices in helping patients take their medications as directed," stated Larry Merlo, president and CEO of CVS Caremark. "Our pharmacists also believe that while they have an important role to play in helping patients stay adherent to their medications, they can achieve even better results through partnership and close collaboration with prescribing physicians."

CVS Caremark's Pharmacy Advisor program enables the company's pharmacists to engage with pharmacy benefit manager members, who are diagnosed with chronic conditions, including diabetes and cardiovascular disease. The pharmacists counsel their patients about the importance of being adherent to their medications and identify gaps in care that they educate the patient about and can bring to their physician's attention. A recent analysis showed that after one year in the Pharmacy Advisor program, certain members using CVS/pharmacy retail locations had a 17.2% decline in gaps in care.

When talking about the impact of cost on adherence, 91% of the CVS retail pharmacists who participated in the survey agreed that having cost efficient alternatives to more expensive therapies improves medication adherence. In addition, 89% of the pharmacists that participated in the survey agreed that their patients welcome being offered generic substitutions as a cost savings measure.

"As cost continues to be a barrier to medication adherence, we need to find ways to help educate patients about their options and let them know that generic medications are a safe, effective and cost conscious approach to managing chronic diseases," CVS Caremark EVP and chief medical officer Troyen Brennan said. "For example, our own published research shows that simply educating physicians and patients about the cost impact of requiring that a branded prescription be Dispensed as Written (DAW) instead of filled with an appropriate generic substitution, could save patients a much as $1.2 billion annually and reduce health system costs by as much as $7.7 billion each year.”

IntelliQHealth conducted the online survey and respondents included more than 2,400 CVS pharmacists across the country.

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