Commentary: Pharmacists can help manage drug costs if laws just let them

Lucinda Maine, PhD, RPh, the executive vice president and CEO of the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy, notes pharmacists are in a good position to help address skyrocketing drug prices "if state and federal laws would allow." More than $500 billion in health care spending results from so-called "drug-related problems." Such problems inc

Lucinda Maine, PhD, RPh, the executive vice president and CEO of the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy, notes pharmacists are in a good position to help address skyrocketing drug prices "if state and federal laws would allow." More than $500 billion in health care spending results from so-called "drug-related problems." Such problems include patients simply not taking their medications as prescribed. Some patients elect not to fill a prescription or use only a few doses without finishing the course which can lead to hospital readmission, adding to health care costs. The most frequent drug-related problem occurs when an individual has a condition that could be remedied but who, for various reasons, does not initiate treatment. "Increasing public access to and coverage for pharmacists' medication management services is an essential component of the formula for achieving a healthier and more productive society," says Maine, adding that "pharmacists are well situated to intervene on patients' behalf." While the Medicare program does pay for outpatient prescription drugs, federal regulations fail to include pharmacists as approved providers of other essential services, including comprehensive medication management. "The Pharmacy and Medically Underserved Areas Enhancement Act, which now is co-sponsored by the majority of U.S. Senators and Representatives, aims to remedy this deficiency in Medicare policy," concludes Maine. "The result would be expanded consumer access to pharmacists' patient care services."