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12/3/2003
Press Release

Enhanced Role for Pharmacists in Medicare Drug Act

The Pharmacists Provider Coalition today applauded Congress’ commitment to medication therapy management services for high-risk seniors, calling the provision “a big step forward for patient safety.”

Medication therapy management programs are an essential component of the new Medicare outpatient drug benefit contained in the Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement and Modernization Act of 2003.  This federal recognition of the role pharmacists play in managing patients’ medication therapy will allow the nation’s most fragile patient population access to pharmacists’ services.  Pharmacists will finally be able to receive payment for evaluating drug regimens and advising patients who have chronic disease and multiple medications.

“In a bill full of compromises, it is heartening to see Congress take a firm, informed position on the value of pharmacist-provided medication therapy management services,” said Linda Golodner, president of the National Consumers League. “The Medicare drug benefit won’t work unless we address the complex nature of elderly patients taking multiple medications for a variety of health issues.  Better use of pharmacists meets a significant part of that need.”

Under the new law, all Medicare drug plans are required to include a “medication therapy management” (MTM) program designed to optimize therapeutic outcomes, improve medication use, reduce the risk of adverse events and drug interactions, and increase patient adherence and compliance with prescribed regimens.  Medication therapy management programs will be targeted toward Medicare beneficiaries with multiple chronic conditions, numerous prescriptions, and whose outpatient drug costs exceed an amount to be determined by the Department of Health and Human Services.

"No population needs medication therapy management services from pharmacists more than the chronically ill population," added Senator Tim Johnson (D-SD). "The Veterans Health Administration has provided these services for years and I have been a strong advocate for extending that same type of service to high-risk Medicare beneficiaries for years.”

"Pharmacists play an important role in the safe and effective use of medications,” said Senator Thad Cochran (R-MS).  “This bill recognizes this role and makes medication management provided by pharmacists available to Medicare beneficiaries as part of the prescription drug benefit."   

The inclusion of MTM programs in the new Medicare law is a milestone for the Pharmacist Provider Coalition.  Formed in 2001, the Coalition promotes patient safety and more effective utilization of medications through broader involvement of pharmacists.  Pharmacists are the only health care providers whose education focuses on proper use of today’s increasingly sophisticated drugs, biologics, and medical devices.

“This provision is an exciting step forward and acknowledges the value of pharmacist services,” said Henri R. Manasse, Jr., Ph.D., Sc.D., ASHP Executive Vice President and CEO.  “Studies demonstrate that involving pharmacists in medication management is good medicine, reducing morbidity while achieving overall cost savings.”

Coalition members believe that seniors across the country will embrace the new benefit.  A national survey conducted last year found that 83 percent of Americans would be interested in having a pharmacist work closely with them and their physician to monitor how well their medications are working.  Ninety-three percent of respondents also indicated support for such a new Medicare benefit.  (Copies of supportive research studies and more information on the national survey are available upon request.)

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.