A new study dripping with policy implications for the emerging Medicare outpatient drug program suggests that interventions by pharmacists can have a major positive impact on both the cost of medicine for seniors and the outcomes for older patients. The analysis, performed by researchers at the University of Southern California, evaluated the effect that pharmacists could have on medication-related illnesses and deaths in the elderly population if a comprehensive pharmacist care program is included in a Medicare drug benefit.
The investigators found that pharmacist care services could result in saving the lives of as many as 112,000 seniors each year. Their conclusion was that failure to provide pharmacists with incentives to offer these services would be a fatal mistake. Indeed, the current system may actually provide disincentives for lifesaving interventions.
?Pharmacies are reimbursed only for dispensing prescriptions and not for providing medication management services as many do,? the researchers said. ?If a pharmacist reviews a prescription and considers it potentially inappropriate, and the consultation with the prescriber results in the discontinuation of that prescription, that pharmacist receives no compensation for the service provided and also [loses] the reimbursement for the dispensing of that medication.?