Senate Bill Expands Medication Therapy Management for Seniors

A bill expanding seniors’ access to pharmacist-provided medication therapy management (MTM) services was introduced today by US senators Kay R. Hagan (D, NC) and Al Franken (D, MN). The Medication Therapy Management (MTM) Expanded Benefits Act will allow seniors with 1 chronic illness to have their medications reviewed by a pharmacist in an individual counseling session.

Pharmacy groups the National Association of Chain Drug Stores (NACDS) and the National Community Pharmacists Association (NCPA) backed the bill for its emphasis on the pharmacist’s role in improving medication adherence.

Currently, MTM services are available to Medicare Part D beneficiaries with multiple chronic illnesses—a group that accounts for 12.9% of Medicare patients. The new bill would significantly improve access to health care for many seniors coping with a single long-term illness, such as diabetes or heart disease. “It’s time we end the barriers currently keeping so many more from benefitting from this program,” Franken said.

Referring to a 2007 study by the North Carolina Health and Wellness Trust Fund Commission, Hagan said MTM programs “have already helped North Carolina save money, and our seniors have avoided countless health care problems.” The program reportedly saved the state $10 million in health care costs, according to a statement released by Hagan’s office. If implemented nationwide, a similar program could help the US health care system reduce the high cost of nonadherence, which the New England Health Institute estimated to be $290 billion per year.

Pharmacy advocates are encouraged by the bill, which recognizes the clinical expertise of pharmacists as an essential component of the health care system. "By encouraging MTM services in neighborhood pharmacies, the bill would improve public health and reduce health care costs by helping patients to take their medications in the right ways and avoid complications with their drug therapies,” said Stephen C. Anderson, IOM, CAE, NACDS president and chief executive officer.

Douglas Hoey, RPh, NCPA’s acting executive vice president and chief executive officer, echoed Anderson’s endorsement, citing the “treasure trove of compelling evidence” to support pharmacist-provided MTM services. “Pharmacists are clinically-trained in helping ensure their patients are getting the best possible results,” he added.