Pharmacists: Give Patients Their Choice of Pharmacy to Encourage Proper Medication Use

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As submitted to USA TODAY

To the Editor:

Improper medication use is indeed a costly and avoidable problem ("Studies: Missed medicines could cost more than $250B a year," May 26). But restricting patient choice of pharmacy—as the companies financing this particular research would do—is the wrong approach.

An open dialogue between patients, pharmacists and physicians is the best way to identify and eliminate barriers to the appropriate use of prescribed medication. Those efforts are most successful with the pharmacist and pharmacy of the patient's choice. Local pharmacists are best-positioned to counsel patients. Some patients may prefer mail order pharmacies instead. That decision should be the patient's, not that of a giant corporation with a vested interest.

CVS Caremark and Express Scripts, the sponsors of the research cited, spend great sums and energy trying to steer patients into "restricted networks" that dictate which pharmacies consumers may use. Such efforts routinely disrupt patient-pharmacist bonds built on years of trust. Patients, payers and providers all benefit when patient-pharmacist consultations are encouraged, not silenced.

Community pharmacists also have better records of promoting the appropriate use of lower-cost generic drugs than mail order pharmacies. In 2010, Express Scripts mail order facilities dispensed generic drugs 60 percent of the time while the rate for community pharmacies was 72 percent. An increase of just one percentage point can save millions of dollars.

B. Douglas Hoey, RPh, MBA
Executive Vice President and CEO
National Community Pharmacists Association Alexandria, Va.

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