CLSA Wire

Fox&Hounds: Opinion: Bill Will Help California Patients with Chronic Conditions Better Manage Treatment

By Todd Gillenwater & Jon Roth, op-ed exclusive to Fox&Hounds
Sept. 12, 2014

Most patients with chronic health conditions rely on prescription medications as the primary method for treating their disease.  In fact, eight out of ten of all health conditions are now treated with prescription medications.  An alarming number of patients, however, do not take their medications as prescribed, leading to deteriorating health and expensive hospital stays and urgent care visits, which costs the health care system nearly $300 billion dollars every year.

Successful efforts to improve “medication adherence” – taking your medication as prescribed – include increased interaction between patients and healthcare providers and ensuring patient-centered delivery of those medications.  A bill that recently passed the state Legislature with broad bipartisan support, Assembly Bill 2418, by Assemblymembers Susan Bonilla (D-Concord) and Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley), aims to improve medication adherence by promoting some of these same patient-centric strategies.

Pharmacists have an important role to play in improving patient-centered care and medication adherence.  When pharmacists work closely with patients, prescribing physicians, and other healthcare providers to focus on medication adherence, patient health outcomes improve.  A recent article in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that when pharmacists worked with patients to provide ongoing consultation regarding hypertension, patients were over 15 percent more likely to take their medications and 20 percent more likely to have controlled blood pressure.

AB 2418 will improve medication adherence through patient-centered care in two specific ways: Streamlining the refill process for patients with multiple prescriptions; and ensuring patients can get early refills for medication eye drops if they spill.

Most patients with chronic health conditions take multiple prescription medications.  As a result of standardized refill quantities (30 or 90 days), many patients have to make multiple trips to the pharmacy every month to pick up their medications.  To increase convenience for patients and the quality of consultations provided by pharmacists, the Network for Excellence in Health Innovation (formerly the New England Healthcare Institute) recommends synchronizing refill dates so that patients pick up all medications on a single trip to the pharmacy.  Pharmacists can already do this today but often get caught up in insurance red tape that makes it difficult to synchronize multiple prescriptions for patients.  AB 2418 streamlines this process so that refills can be easily synchronized.

Unlike a pill or tablet, applying eye drops is a less precise way of administering medication.  Patients can miss the eye or accidentally squeeze more drops than prescribed.  When this happens, a patient often runs out of their eye drops before the next refill is due, resulting in patients going without medication for up to a week.  AB 2418 adopts federal Medicare guidelines to ensure that patients can get refills for medically-necessary eye drops when they run out a few days early.

Ensuring medication adherence support is important to patients, whose health will be improved.  AB 2418 includes common-sense solutions to provide patients such support, not only improving individuals’ care, but helping to reduce costs across the health care system.  AB 2418 has received overwhelming support from both sides of the isle and recently arrived at the desk of Governor Jerry Brown. We urge the governor to stand with California patients and sign this important bill.

Todd E. Gillenwater is executive vice president of advocacy and external relations at California Life Sciences Association (CLSA), a nonprofit public policy organization representing leading academic institutions and biotechnology, medical device, diagnostics and pharmaceutical firms.

Jon Roth is the CEO of the California Pharmacists Association (CPhA,) the largest state pharmacy association in the country which helps promote the health of the public through the practice of pharmacy.

Read the op-ed at Fox&Hounds.