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Walgreens Study Demonstrates Benefits of Retail Prescriptions

Published Online: Thursday, December 29, 2011

A new Walgreens study analyzing relative medication adherence of patients filling 90-day supplies of maintenance medications using retail and mail order channels over a 1-year period concluded that patients who fill prescriptions via retail have as high or slightly higher adherence levels than those utilizing mail (77% vs. 76%). The study was published in the November issue of The American Journal of Managed Care.

Previous research has shown that medication non-adherence has a significant negative impact on patient outcomes and overall health care costs. On average, 50% of patients do not take their medications as prescribed and 33% never even fill their first prescription. Data have also demonstrated that 11% of hospital admissions and 40% of nursing home admissions are attributable to medication non-adherence, costing the US health care system approximately $300 billion annually. As the number of Americans taking prescription drugs and the prevalence of chronic conditions grows, reducing non-adherence has increasingly become a primary focus for health plan sponsors.

“We know that improving patient adherence is critical and that many patients value the power of choice when it comes to how they receive their prescriptions,” said Jeffrey Kang, MD, senior vice president of Pharmacy, Health and Wellness Services and Solutions at Walgreens, in a statement. “What this study shows is that patients taking maintenance medications who receive 90-day prescriptions are overall as likely or even slightly more likely to be adherent when utilizing the retail community pharmacy channel as they are with mail order. Given that community pharmacy also provides patients the potential benefit of face-to-face interaction with a pharmacist to help them manage their medications and overall wellness, these findings suggest that a 90-day at retail option in health plans potentially drives better patient outcomes and reduced costs for employers and payers.”

For the study, de-identified pharmacy claims data from a large pharmacy benefit manager was analyzed. Patients were selected if they were continuously eligible for at least 12 months between January 2008 and August 2010, with plan designs that allowed the option of filling 90-day supplies at either retail or mail order. Adherence was measured by medication possessions ratio (MPR) for nine therapeutic groups (antiasthmatics and bronchodilators, antidepressants, antidiabetics, antihyperlipidemics, antihypertensives, beta blockers, calcium channel blockers, diuretics and thyroid agents).

Walgreens conducted the study as part of an ongoing effort to offer patients and payers solutions that address medication adherence and improvement in clinical measures for chronic diseases. The company is committed to conducting peer-reviewed research that looks at the collaborative care model with all contributing health care professionals.
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