Walgreen Co. is helping doctors make more cost-effective medication choices for patients by setting up electronic access, including via handheld devices, to the formulary list of its prescription drug discount club.

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Doctors get e-access to Walgreens discount Rx list

October 20th, 2010

DEERFIELD, Ill. – Walgreen Co. is helping doctors make more cost-effective medication choices for patients by setting up electronic access, including via handheld devices, to the formulary list of its prescription drug discount club.

The drug store chain said Wednesday said that health care professionals using drug reference applications from health information technology provider Epocrates Inc. can now access the Walgreens Prescription Savings Club (PSC) formulary list of more than 8,000 branded and generic drugs from a variety of mobile devices or over the Internet.

Using Epocrates tools, physicians writing or refilling a prescription can quickly check the Walgreens PSC formulary to see if a less expensive drug is available, a capability that Walgreens noted can give patients significant savings for frequent and required medications. Prescribing providers have free electronic access to the Walgreens PSC list, which includes treatments for most chronic conditions and diseases, such as insulin, statins and antivirals.

The free Epocrates Rx drug reference application, which features retail, government and health insurance formulary lists, is available online or for download to mobile devices, including the iPhone, BlackBerry, Android, Palm and Windows Mobile platforms. In a recent survey of more than 1,000 physicians, about 80% reported changing a prescribing decision based on information available in Epocrates.

"Providing the Epocrates network of prescribers convenient access to our Prescription Savings Club prices will help continue to drive awareness around the exceptional value the discount club offers on a broad range of medications," Richard Ashworth, vice president of pharmacy operations at Walgreens, said in a statement. "As health care providers, we help patients be compliant with their medications and want to make sure they are aware of their options, including ways to realize savings without compromising safety, service or convenience."

More than 2 million pharmacy patients are enrolled in the Walgreens PSC, a discount program that offers members price reductions on cash purchases of prescription medications. Walgreens said the club's formulary spans every drug category and provides significant savings on some of the most commonly prescribed medications, including treatments for pain, asthma, blood pressure, cholesterol and women's health. The list also includes preventive and lifestyle drugs, such as weight management, smoking cessation and family planning, which are often not covered by insurance.

epocrates rx devices
With Epocrates Rx, doctors can access Walgreens' discount drug formulary via iPhone, BlackBerry and Palm devices.

"This is a big win for our network of nearly 300,000 U.S. physicians and their patients," stated Rose Crane, chief executive officer and president for San Mateo, Calif.-based Epocrates. "By having this information readily available at the point of care, health care providers can have a meaningful conversation with patients about prescriptions and find the right fit medically and financially."

Epocrates said its active user network has more than 1 million health care professionals, including over 45% of U.S. physicians.

"When I prescribe a medication for a patient, I'm not always confident they will get it filled. By identifying the best option for them before they even leave the exam room, I feel I'm doing everything I can to help ensure compliance. Now with access to the Walgreens PSC formulary, I can give them an affordable option and definitive location to pick up the prescription," family practice physician Dr. Robert Dudley said in a statement released by Walgreens and Epocrates. "I'm hopeful this will make it easier for patients to comply with their drug regimen and be easier on their wallets."

Cost is regularly identified by researchers as a key factor behind low levels of medication adherence among patients receiving prescription drugs, especially those for chronic conditions. 

What's more, consumers say health care providers need to be more cognizant of cost when selecting a medication. In a prescription drug survey released in late August by Consumer Reports, 51% of the more than 1,100 adults polled think doctors don't consider a patient's ability to pay when prescribing a drug, and 41% said physicians tend to prescribe newer, more expensive drugs. The survey also found that in the past year, 39% of consumers polled took some action to reduce costs, and 27% failed to comply with prescriptions. And to save money, 38% of those younger than 65 without drug coverage skipped filling a prescription.