Published Online: Sunday, July 1, 2007

Administrative burdens built into the Medicare Part D prescription drug program have prevented pharmacists from effectively delivering medication therapy management (MTM) services to the nation?s seniors, officials at the American Pharmacists Association (APhA) maintained.

In an appeal to Congress for changes in the 18-month-old drug program, APhA President-Elect Timothy L. Tucker, PharmD, said that, while MTM services were intended to be the "cornerstone" of the new Part D prescription benefit, most drug plans participating in that program "have fallen short of the mark."

Describing that failure as one of the "missed opportunities" associated with the Medicare drug benefit, Tucker cited the findings of an APhA survey that confirm that many plans are providing MTM services by telephone rather than through face-to-face interactions between patient and pharmacist. Ironically, "robust MTM continues to grow" in the private sector, if not via Medicare, APhA told Congress.Tucker said Medicare could learn a lesson from the private sector, where pharmacists have been able to reduce overall health care costs significantly by engaging in MTM.

After a year of providing patients with diabetes with MTM services, pharmacists involved in the Asheville Project were able to produce average savings per patient of $1600 to $3200 annually, he explained. "Remarkably, diabetic patients who are in this program are now less costly to the health care system than patients without diabetes," Tucker told Congress. "Unfortunately, the incentives in Part D are not aligned to facilitate replicating these private-sector successes," he said.

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