Pharmacy interventions for patients taking new medications can improve adherence, reduce health care costs, and improve outcomes.

Walgreens recently released a study that analyzed patients who received pharmacy interventions compared with a control group of patients who did not go to Walgreens and did not receive any pharmacy interventions.   

The patients in the 6-month study were starting new medications across 16 drug classes.

Interventions included pharmacist consultations by phone or in person and reminders for prescription refills and pick-up through calls, texts, and emails.

The researchers found that the pharmacy intervention group had a 6-month cost saving of $164, or 3% per patient.

Medication adherence also increased by 3% for the Walgreens intervention group.

“We believe that pharmacy interventions that support patients’ efforts to get and take [antihypertensive, cholesterol, and diabetes] medications as prescribed can certainly impact Medicare star measures,” Walgreens chief medical officer Harry Leider, MD, told Pharmacy Times. “Multifaceted programs tailored to the individual patient and that are longitudinal in nature are likely to impact [Medicare] Star measures to a greater extent than less comprehensive approaches.”

Additionally, the researchers found that there were almost 2% fewer hospital admissions in the intervention group.

The Walgreens group also had almost 3% lower emergency room visits, leading to $38 lower emergency room costs per patient.

Dr. Leider told Pharmacy Times that the type of intervention that proved to be the most efficacious depended on the needs and preferences of the patient.  

“Patients with a barrier of not understanding why they have been prescribed a medication benefit from 1:1 interaction with a pharmacist to increase knowledge and motivation,” Dr. Leider said.

He noted that other patients want to be adherent, but day-to-day demands may be an obstacle. For these patients, various reminders to encourage action were most beneficial.

“In addition, patient needs can be dynamic over time, therefore, different solution components may be more or less helpful even during the course of a year,” Dr. Leider said.

The study did not isolate specific interventions, but a comprehensive approach often leads to the highest adherence rates and tend to be most effective when offered in a multifaceted way, Dr. Leider noted.

“It is truly the mix of interventions that we believe have resulted in these positive and impactful results,” Leider concluded. “This was a great collaboration between our adherence and pharmacy operations teams, and the Walgreens health outcomes research group, which led the effort.”

The study was conducted by Walgreens Health Services and Outcomes Research and IMS Health.