Chronic conditions, such as arthritis, can be debilitating for tens of millions of Americans. Some medications can actually halt the progress of diseases like rheumatoid arthritis (RA). But if left untreated, RA can leave a person severely disabled and in chronic pain. What’s more, about half of people with heart disease or diabetes also have arthritis, meaning they rely on multiple medications for multiple diseases.
One way to help patients with arthritis manage their condition is to follow their medication regimens. The nation’s pharmacists are uniquely positioned to help these patients understand why taking their medications as prescribed is fundamental to their health.
Poor medication adherence – not taking medications as prescribed – costs the U.S. healthcare system $290 billion annually in emergency room visits and catastrophic care. There is a solution. The evidence is mounting of the positive impact of pharmacist-provided medication therapy management on medication adherence, patient health and healthcare affordability.
Medication therapy management (MTM) is a professional service offered by pharmacists and other qualified health practitioners that helps ensure medications are taken appropriately to help improve health, reduce the risk of adverse events, and help control healthcare costs.
Pending bipartisan legislation in the U.S. Senate – S. 776, the Medication Therapy Management Empowerment Act of 2015 – would improve access to MTM services for senior citizens enrolled in the Medicare program. Medicare Part D patients with specific chronic conditions would benefit from the education and training of pharmacists and other qualified health practitioners to help ensure that medications are taken appropriately.
Continued non-adherence will only generate greater health risks for patients with chronic conditions. This commonsense legislation is key to improving medication adherence and health for these patients.
There is overwhelming support and research – including the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) and the Congressional Budget Office – showing that filling prescription medications and taking them as prescribed improves medication adherence, resulting in better health outcomes and reduced overall medical costs.
CMS has also recently announced a pilot initiative to enable Medicare Part D plans the opportunity to utilize new and innovative approaches to MTM, which can lead to improved patient access to MTM services and greater medication adherence.
In addition, at a recent hearing on Capitol Hill, lawmakers examined the impact of MTM on health outcomes and healthcare costs. Pharmacy was represented at this hearing, and emphasized the importance of the relationship between a patient and their pharmacist in helping to help manage chronic conditions and improve patient health, while controlling costs.
We know that MTM services can go a long way in improving health outcomes for patients. Providing patients with better access to counseling when it comes to the safe and proper use of their medication should be a matter of commonsense.
Ann Palmer is the President and CEO of the Arthritis Foundation. Steven C. Anderson is the President and CEO of the National Association of Chain Drug Stores.