‘Super committee’ gets overture from NACDS

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WASHINGTON — Community pharmacy advocates say that the “super committee” on deficit reduction should collaborate with community pharmacy on reducing health care costs while maintaining patient access to prescription drugs and pharmacy services.

In a letter sent to the 12-member committee this month, the National Association of Chain Drug Stores highlights the accessibility of local pharmacists and says boosting medication adherence is key to improving health and cutting costs.

“We strongly believe any deficit reduction plan must include policies to improve medication adherence,” the letter says.

“There is no silver bullet to end the problem of poor medication adherence,” NACDS notes. “Only by addressing the problem comprehensively, and engaging pharmacists, physicians and other health care providers as true partners in helping patients to take medications as prescribed, will we be successful in reducing hospital readmissions, doctor and emergency room visits, and other higher-cost health care interventions that are the inevitable result of poor medication adherence.”

The letter goes on to say that maintaining patients’ choice of where to get medications and pharmacy services is “critical” to boosting adherence.

“Studies have shown that community pharmacists in the face-to-face setting are twice as effective as pharmacists speaking to patients over the telephone at improving adherence,” NACDS notes.

The association cautioned the committee about the manner in which prescription drug costs are evaluated. “While reducing health care costs is essential, it is not possible or advisable to consider spending on prescription drugs in a vacuum, separate from the substantial cost avoidance that they make possible,” the letter says. “Furthermore, community pharmacy’s role in maximizing the effectiveness of prescription drugs makes community pharmacy’s value unsurpassed within health care delivery.”

NACDS also urged the committee to consider opportunities to further reduce costs and improve outcomes, such as increased use of generic drugs, utilizing Medicare Part D for immunization coverage, moving coverage of diabetes testing supplies from Medicare Part B to Medicare Part D, spurring competition of biopharmaceuticals and maintaining patient access to health care services.

President Obama is expected to seek substantial cuts in health care spending, including savings of hundreds of billions of dollars in Medicare and Medicaid. The president said during his speech on job growth that he differed with members of his party “who don’t think we should make any changes at all to Medicare and Medicaid.”

It was thought that Obama would propose $300 billion to $500 billion of savings in entitlement programs over 10 years. Such savings would fit with a petition from scores of business leaders and former government officials in support of greater deficit reduction. They beseeched the super committee to go beyond its mandate to cut up to $1.5 trillion from budget shortfalls over a decade.

“We urge you to ‘go big,’ ” the petition says, “and develop a large-scale debt-reduction package sufficient to stabilize the debt as a share of the economy.”

Also, the Healthcare Leadership Council, made up of chief executives of health care companies, including Walgreen Co.’s Greg Wasson, called on the super committee to propose reforms that would not only generate over $410 billion in Medicare savings over 10 years but would strengthen the program’s long-term sustainability.


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