Clinical Pharmacists Can Improve Cost Savings Through Medication Assistance Programs in Primary Care
As medication costs continue to rise in the United States, use of medication assistance programs (MAP) to help those who are uninsured or underinsured to afford medications is becoming increasingly prevalent. A recent study published in Exploratory Research in Clinical and Social Pharmacy assessed cost savings to patients identified by a clinical pharmacist after enrollment in a MAP.
A team of researchers from Kansas and Nebraska designed and conducted the retrospective, observational cohort study. The study authors included 18 patients from 9 primary care clinics.
A clinical pharmacist met with each patient and referred them to a dedicated MAP coordinator. MAP applications generally have a 10th grade reading level, so they can be difficult for many patients to complete.
The coordinator would help with the MAP application process, including filling out paperwork and ensuring it was submitted to the drug manufacturer. Once approved, the coordinator would inform the patient and coordinate refills as necessary. The clinical pharmacist would continue to manage the patient through collaborative practice agreements.
Total medication savings was $187,789 based on the average wholesale price of the drugs, resulting in more than $10,000 of savings per patient. Most medications were for the management of diabetes, although respiratory conditions and incontinence were also included.
This study highlights the importance of integrating a clinical pharmacist into the primary care team. If clinical pharmacists are present in family medicine clinics, they can help identify patients who are unable to afford their medications and make recommendations for more cost-effective therapy.
Twenty-six of the 35 medications were for diabetes, and exploratory analysis showed pharmacists were able to significantly decrease patients’ hemoglobin A1c.Many medications for management of diabetes are brand name only, so improving access to these medications through MAP can improve outcomes.
Collaboration between the clinical pharmacist and MAP coordinator makes this study unique. The pharmacist can identify appropriate patients and make therapy recommendations, while the coordinator is able to make the application process more seamless.
Ultimately, this study demonstrated the importance of clinical pharmacists in the primary care setting.They can improve access to care through cost savings and improve patient outcomes.
Pharmacists should continue to seek out opportunities to be involved in family medicine and chronic disease state management to make meaningful impacts on care.
About the Author
Emily Perriello, PharmD, is on the faculty at the University of Saint Joseph School of Pharmacy and Physician Assistant Studies in West Hartford, CT.
Pickett B, Shin TR, Norton M. Utilizing clinical pharmacists and a medication assistance program to improve medication access for indigent and underserved patients in primary care. Explor Res Clin Soc Pharm. 2023;9:100211. doi:10.1016/j.rcsop.2022.100211