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More opportunity in diabetes care

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NEW YORK — Diabetes continues to be a huge health care problem for the United States, and pharmacists have been on the front line in the effort to reduce its scale. Still, there’s more opportunity for drug chains to provide more diabetes care, according to data from Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals’ Pharmacy Satisfaction Pulse Survey.

The Pharmacy Satisfaction Pulse Survey conducted annually by Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals Inc. provides a wealth of detail on the priorities and preferences of U.S. pharmacy customers. One of the study’s key assets is the size of the sample: The 2013 survey drew on the responses of 34,424 adult pharmacy patients who had filled at least six (including refills) prescriptions in the preceding 12 months.

Within that sample, the number of type 2 diabetes patients totaled 5,455. The first striking fact to emerge from the Pulse Survey data is their importance as pharmacy customers. Not only did these patients shop at their primary pharmacy more than 49 times in the course of a year, but nearly 20% of them filled scripts over 50 times a year.

 Source: Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmacy Satisfaction Pulse Survey, 2013.

The bad news for chain drug stores is that diabetes patients are far more likely to rely on mail order and online pharmacies as their primary resource (22%) than other pharmacy patients (14%).

Chain drug stores, which are the primary pharmacy for 40% of other patients, fill that role for only 28% of type 2 diabetes patients. Mass merchants, on the other hand, do slightly better (17%) in attracting these patients than they do with other pharmacy customers (16%).

The growing strength of mail order as the primary resource of diabetes patients is reflected in the fact that 24% of respondents indicated they had increased their use of mail order in the past 12 months — a year-over-year increase of 2 percentage points.

It may also be related to the fact that diabetes patients are significantly more likely (66%) to utilize 90-day refills than other pharmacy patients (48%).

At the same time, though, a higher percentage of diabetes patients (41%) made use of in-depth counseling (more than two minutes) with their pharmacists in 2012 than had in 2011 (37%). By contrast, 33% of other pharmacy customers utilized such counseling in 2012.

Diabetes patients are also considerably more interested in receiving printed information about their medical condition or general health than other pharmacy patients (52% to 42%), and they tend to take greater advantage of such pharmacy services as flu shots, blood pressure checks and diabetes checks.

So it is no surprise that 85% of diabetes patients surveyed considered the pharmacist’s role in their overall health important.

What is much more puzzling is the fact that, while 75% of diabetic respondents said they are very comfortable discussing type 2 diabetes with their pharmacist, and 53% said they regularly speak to their pharmacist when filling a prescription, only 25% said they discuss their diabetes with their pharmacist often or on every visit.

Source: Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmacy Satisfaction Pulse Survey, 2013.

The Pulse Survey points this out as an opportunity for pharmacists to play a greater role in helping their diabetic customers manage their disease and health by discussing it more.

To that end, chain pharmacy operators have made a point of developing and offering services to help their type 2 diabetes patients manage their disease and improve their health. The services range from medication reminders to nutritional counseling.

CVS/pharmacy, for instance, informs its diabetes patients that it continues to accept Medicare Part B coverage for test strips and other testing supplies. The company also offers the ExtraCare Advantage for Diabetes program, which enables members to save money and manage their disease.

An example of Rite Aid Corp.’s commitment to type 2 diabetes patients is its participation in the Diabetes Control Program (DCP) offered in Cleveland as part of UnitedHealth Group’s Diabetes Prevention and Control Alliance. The DCP is based on a curriculum that has been proven to help control type 2 diabetes.

This is significant, because in 2010 more than 10% (nearly 890,000) of Ohio residents age 18 and older were estimated to have diabetes, while about 266,000 others are thought to have diabetes and not know it.

For its part, Walgreen Co. offered free health testing for hemoglobin A1c and blood glucose at select locations last November, which was American Diabetes Month.

Hy-Vee Inc., which operates food-drug combination stores as well as freestanding drug stores, leverages its food offerings and in-store dietitians to offer a broad range of support services for diabetic customers. In addition, its online diabetes health center provides recommendations on such topics as diabetes-friendly holiday menus and managing diabetes with diet as well as information on interactions with diabetes drugs.

Supercenter operator Meijer Inc. has also made diabetes support an important part of its pharmacy program. Last November the retailer launched an online resource with information on nutrition, exercise and medication management.


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