Walgreens Pharmacist Intervention Proven to Improve Adherence to New Therapy

Walgreens' community pharmacist intervention program boosts medication adherence rates and lowers related costs for patients with a wide range of chronic diseases, a recent study demonstrated.

Walgreens’ community pharmacist intervention program boosts medication adherence rates and lowers related costs for patients with a wide range of chronic diseases, a recent study demonstrated.

This intervention program includes in-pharmacy patient counseling, medication therapy management (MTM), and online and digital refill reminders. For new-to-therapy patients, the program includes pharmacist calls and consultations, and for those continuing therapy, the program includes MTM consultations, automated reminders, pickup reminders, late-to-fill reminders, and face-to-face consultations.

Researchers analyzed data from 72,410 patients, including those who started a new therapy from among 16 drug classes for chronic conditions, over a 6-month period in 2013. The Walgreens patient data were then directly compared with patient data from other pharmacies and controlled for a range of factors, including drug class, demographics, clinical factors, prior health care utilization, and costs.

The study, which was published in the peer-reviewed journal Population Health Management, found that Walgreens’ multifaceted program resulted in 3% higher medication adherence rates and about 2% lower hospital admissions. Broken down further at the patient level, the data revealed that the Walgreens intervention group incurred lower total health costs (-$226) over a 6-month period.

“This data quantifies the role our community pharmacy platform plays in achieving better population health outcomes,” stated study author Michael Taitel, PhD, Walgreens senior director of health analytics, research and reporting, in a press release. “These findings clearly illustrate that the combination of pharmacist counseling, medication therapy management, refill reminders, and telephonic and digital pharmacy interventions tailored to patients’ needs drive better adherence.”

While greater pharmacist involvement in patient care isn’t a novel concept in the health care arena, Walgreens Chief Medical Officer Harry Leider, MD, said this study provides strong evidence that patients who are new to therapy can benefit greatly from some combination of pharmacy and digital interventions.

The prospect of higher medication adherence rates and lower hospital admissions holds significant value for the entire US health care spectrum. Studies have shown that medication adherence rates are as low as 50% among patients with chronic diseases, which costs the US health care system $289 billion annually.