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Valentino to Steer VA's Pharmacy Benefits Management

Cheryl A. Thompson

Michael A. Valentino was selected in late October to serve as the Chief Consultant for the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Pharmacy Benefits Management Strategic Health Care Group, which develops policies and programs for pharmacies and pharmacists.Valentino

Valentino, who started his VA career as a staff pharmacist at the medical center in Tampa, Florida, joined the pharmacy benefits management group in 1997 under the direction of John E. Ogden, who retired at the end of 2002.

As chief consultant, Valentino will consult with and advise the VA undersecretary for health on pharmacy-related questions and initiatives. The undersecretary serves as the chief executive officer of VA’s integrated health care system.

Valentino will also consult with and advise the VA secretary.

VA’s pharmacy benefits management group bears a variety of responsibilities, including projecting the pharmaceutical budget and determining how automation will be introduced into pharmacy practice, how clinical pharmacists will be integrated into the process of providing primary care, and how the formulary will be managed.

As manager of the national VA formulary, the pharmacy benefits management group develops prescribing criteria and pharmacologic management algorithms, monitors drug utilization, ensures standardized contracting, and arranges the pharmaceutical prime vendor distribution program.

What’s new at VA?

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Pharmacy Benefits Management (PBM) Strategic Health Care Group is embarking on a $1 million medication safety project and starting to examine how pharmacists can assist the department’s telehealth initiative, said newly appointed Chief Consultant Michael A. Valentino.

“The PBM has been awarded a grant to establish a medication safety center of inquiry,” he said. “We’re going to use our extensive database [of inpatient and outpatient experiences] to try to identify problems or develop infrastructure to identify problems with drug therapies and make that information available in as close to real time as we can make it.”

Essentially a staff-model health maintenance organization, VA provides nearly all the health care services its beneficiaries receive and, as a result, has patient-specific drug-use data on inpatients and outpatients back to October 1998, he said.

The grant, for about $1 million over three years, is from the VA National Center for Patient Safety, he said.

VA’s telehealth initiative, Valentino said, seeks to take increasingly more health care services directly into patients’ homes.

“The challenge for [the PBM] will be to try to determine what pharmacy’s role will be in that process and how we can help,” he said.

As these new projects get under way, Valentino said the VA will continue to value its “major role in pharmacy education” as the largest provider of ASHP-accredited pharmacy practice residency programs. VA funded 264 pharmacy practice residency positions in the 2002–03 academic year.

From 1991 to 1997, Valentino worked at the Colmery-O’Neal VA Medical Center in Topeka, Kansas, first as the chief of pharmacy services and then as the director of primary care, a position customarily assigned to a physician, after reorganization at the facility eliminated the traditional departmental structure.

He helped develop the VA’s bar-code medication administration system for reducing the frequency of medication errors.

That project, completed while Valentino was chief of pharmacy services, earned the development team Vice President Gore’s National Performance Award for Reinventing Government, also known as the Hammer Award.

Valentino received a bachelor’s degree in pharmacy from Creighton University in 1983 and a master’s degree in health services administration from Arizona State University in 1991. The master’s degree was completed as part of VA’s pharmacy management trainee program.

Before attending pharmacy school, Valentino served three years in the U.S. Army as a pharmacy specialist, similar to a civilian pharmacy technician.