CVS Insights

Friendly Advice from the Pharmacist has Quantifiable Benefits

Dealing with a chronic condition like diabetes is not something most people do alone. They rely on the support of family and friends -- and of course their physician. A study published in the the medical journal Health Affairs highlights another important relationship in this critical support network: that between the patient and their pharmacist.

That relationship is highlighted in a program from CVS Caremark called Pharmacy Advisor. Basically the pharmacist uses information technology to identify which patients are at risk of not taking their medications as directed. These patients then receive a phone call, or in many cases, an in-person reminder from the pharmacist, who provides them with useful information on how they can better control their diabetes by being more aware and mindful of how and when they take their meds.

"This study showed that patients stay on their medications while they are actively counseled, but once those pharmacist-patient conversations ended, adherence fell quickly."

It turns out this kind of interaction has a major impact in the lives of those trying to manage the disease. Researchers at Harvard University, Brigham and Women’s Hospital and CVS Caremark compared two groups of people who regularly filled prescriptions for diabetes. One group was counseled through the Pharmacy Advisor program and the other was not.

Those patients in the group that received the counseling from their pharmacist, via the phone or face-to-face, were far more likely to check in with their prescribing doctors to make sure their treatment was on the right track. The group that was enrolled in the Pharmacy Advisor program was also collectively better at taking their medications as directed.

Although we think giving our patients the individual attention they deserve is just fundamentally the hallmark of good customer service, the benefits of Pharmacy Advisor are quantifiable. The study, for example, estimated that a company that relied on this program for its employees would save $3 for every $1 spent on this type of intervention.

The math gets even more compelling when you put the whole issue into greater context. For instance, the American Diabetes Association estimates the cost of the disease to the U.S. in 2007 at $174 billion. And the annual excess health care costs due to medication non-adherence in the U.S. have been estimated to be as much as $290 billion annually.

To learn more about the specifics of the study and see what our Chief Medical Officer has to say on the issue, take a look at our press release.