BC Pharmacists Say Medication Cost Control Short-Lived Without Better Use of Pharmacists

VANCOUVER, March 20, 2014 /CNW/ - In a policy paper, Facing the Future Together, released today, the BC Pharmacy Association (BCPhA) makes six recommendations it believes government should adopt to manage publicly funded drug costs over the long term.

While recent price drops associated with patent expirations for some major prescription medications have reduced commodity costs, the overall volume of medications being taken and the growing use of more expensive biologic medicines mean governments will be challenged to manage drug budgets in the future.

Experience suggests that policy-makers will need to address the drivers of drug spending and that pharmacists have a key role to play in managing the clinical aspects of pharmaceutical patient care.  Countries such as New Zealand and Switzerland have both made better use of pharmacists to manage patient medication regimens and have shown the benefit of better integration of pharmacists into the health care team.

"The evidence is clear that drug cost management alone will not help contain government's total drug budgets," said Don Cocar, President of the BCPhA Board of Directors. "Helping patients take the right medication at the right time is an essential component of not only effective disease management, but containing costs. Pharmacists are the ideal partners for government to ensure sustainability of the dollars spent on prescription medicines."

The six recommendations made in the report are:

  • That the Government of British Columbia continue to support the expansion of pharmacists' scope of practice to realize the full benefit of pharmacists' education and training.

  • That the Ministry of Health, in partnership with the BC Pharmacy Association, create a joint "Pharmacy Services Committee" with representation from both parties to improve patient care and the professional satisfaction of pharmacists.

  • That the Ministry of Health, in collaboration with other public payers, prepare and publicly release an annual consolidated pharmacy expenditures and trends report.

  • That the Ministry of Health support the implementation of the clinical services proposals presented to government by the BC Pharmacy Association in March 2013.

  • That the Ministry of Health, in collaboration with the BC Pharmacy Association and the Doctors of BC (BC Medical Association), establish physician-pharmacist quality circles.

  • That the Government of British Columbia, in collaboration with the BC Pharmacy Association and other relevant stakeholders, update provincial legislation to reflect developments in e-health.

The full report is available at www.bcpharmacy.ca/policy.

About the BC Pharmacy Association

The British Columbia Pharmacy Association is a not-for-profit professional association that represents almost 2,800 pharmacists and more than 800 pharmacies throughout British Columbia. Recognized as the voice for community pharmacy, the Association aims to support and advance the professional role and economic viability of its members so they may provide enhanced patient-centred care.


Facing the Future Together – BCPhA Policy Paper Backgrounder

The Costs of Prescription Medications in BC

  • 2007 marked a major shift in drug spending as the rate of growth slowed to less than half of the historical average. This was largely attributed to many major prescription medications coming off-patent.

  • Despite this "patent cliff," BC's publicly funded drug costs continue to increase. This is due to two key factors: the overall increase in the volume of medications taken by British Columbians and the mix of medications that are being taken.

  • According the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI) 2012 report, "price changes did not have a significant impact on drug spending, and drug spending actually decreased when adjusted for inflation."

  • Some researchers have said that one-time cost savings by the use of generic drugs is expected to be off-set by the costs associated with newer biologic medications in the future.

The Role Pharmacists Play in Managing Patient Outcomes and Health Care System Costs

  • A key mechanism that government can employ to help manage drug cost spending is the optimal clinical management of prescription drug therapy. Pharmacists are best equipped to assist patients in managing their medication regimens.

  • New Zealand, despite more than two decades of stringent prescription drug cost containment, turned to pharmacists to provide patient services for people with chronic and complex diseases.

  • In 2012 the New Zealand government signed an agreement with the country's pharmacists to deliver services to improve medication adherence in an effort to improve patient health outcomes and contain costs.
  • Experience in North Carolina has proven that overall patient medical costs were reduced when pharmacists were used to provide disease management education to patients with diabetes.

  • Earlier this year a study in Ontario showed that pharmacist intervention with patients with hypertension improved their health status and reduced medication costs.

  • Increasingly, efforts to improve medication adherence are seen as an important way in which to manage health care costs and improve patient quality of life.

Creating a Sustainable Provincial Drug Policy

  • Commodity drug cost containment alone can't deliver a sustainable drug program for British Columbians.

  • Government needs to employ a multi-pronged strategy that better uses the expertise of pharmacists to manage patient prescription drug therapies and enables the integration of pharmacists into physician practices.

  • The increase in patients with chronic and complex medical conditions, who rely on prescription medications as a key tool in the management of their conditions, calls for the active involvement of pharmacists in their care.

SOURCE British Columbia Pharmacy Association

For further information: Elise Riedlinger, 604-269-2866, elise.riedlinger@bcpharmacy.ca