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Press Release

New Bill Assists Medicare Patients Taking Complex Drug Therapies

Senators Tim Johnson (D-S.D.) and  Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) yesterday introduced legislation to enhance patient safety and contain rising national health care costs by increasing Medicare patient access to the professional services of pharmacists. 

“There is no group more vulnerable to medication-related problems than our nation’s seniors,” said Senator Johnson. “Pharmacists can play a pivotal role in enhancing the quality and safety of medication use for Medicare beneficiaries.  In addition, this legislation provides an essential infrastructure component of any type of Medicare prescription drug benefit.”

S. 1270, The Medication Therapy Management Act, will amend the Social Security Act to cover medication therapy management service provided by pharmacists to high-risk Medicare patients. Patients who will have access include those receiving medications for asthma, diabetes, or chronic cardiovascular disease, as well as those on anticoagulation or lipid-reducing medications. The services provided by a number of other health care professionals, including registered dieticians, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, certified nurse midwives, and clinical social workers are also recognized for payment under Medicare.

“Americans today have access to better, more effective medicines, but not always to the comprehensive medication management that a pharmacist can provide,” said Phylliss Moret, acting executive director of the American Society of Consultant Pharmacists (ASCP).  “The involvement of pharmacists is imperative so that Medicare patients with complex medical needs can successfully control their disease and avoid multiple doctor and hospital visits to deal with complications.”

“The legislation represents an essential step in the development of a safer, quality-driven health care system for our nation,” said Henri R. Manasse, Jr., Sc.D., Ph.D., executive vice president and CEO of the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP).  “We must acknowledge the crucial role pharmacists can and should play in ensuring elderly patients receive the care they deserve.”

The need for pharmacists’ involvement in medication therapy management is particularly important for patients age 65 and older, as they often take several medications and may have numerous health conditions.  According to a May 2001 survey conducted by the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP), half of American seniors take five or more medications daily. 

Other research in respected medical literature such as the Journal of the American Medical Association has shown that when pharmacists are part of patient care teams, patients have fewer adverse drug events and experience improved outcomes, and health care costs are decreased.  The Institute of Medicine’s November 1999 report also recognized the value of pharmacists to patient care noting, “the pharmacist has become an essential resource and patient safety demands that access to the pharmacist’s expertise must be possible at all times.”

The Pharmacist Provider Coalition (PPC) unites seven national pharmacist organizations to advocate for improvements in the quality of care that Medicare patients receive from their medications. Member organizations include:  Academy of Managed Care Pharmacy (AMCP), American College of Clinical Pharmacy (ACCP), American Pharmacists Association (APhA), American Society of Consultant Pharmacists (ASCP), American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP), and the College of Psychiatric and Neurologic Pharmacists (CPNP).  The American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy (AACP) officially endorses the work of the coalition.