Pharmacies have long been a reliable pillar of our healthcare system, providing essential services to millions of Americans. During the Covid-19 pandemic, pharmacies went above and beyond, facilitating the vaccination process and expanding their clinical services. However, recent months have revealed a growing discontent among pharmacists and pharmacies with their working conditions. Overwhelmed and understaffed, many pharmacists have organized walkouts to express their concerns about patient safety.
The underlying issue seems to be a mismatch between increased revenue from clinical services and reduced reimbursement from insurers. As a result, pharmacies face difficult choices – scale back services, increase staffing, or maintain the status quo. Unfortunately, the pressure to meet financial expectations often leads to the third option, leaving pharmacists feeling overworked and patients potentially at risk.
Amidst these challenges, there is one potential solution that could alleviate the burden on pharmacies and improve patient care: the adoption of six and twelve-month prescriptions. This concept, not to be confused with prescriptions valid for a year, refers to prescriptions filled only once to provide a year’s supply of medication.
By transitioning from 30 or 90-day prescriptions to six or twelve-month supplies, pharmacies could significantly reduce their workload. According to IQVIA data, approximately 1.1 billion prescriptions dispensed in the U.S. in 2022 were for 90-day supplies. If 75% of these prescriptions could be converted to twelve-month fills, it would reduce the total number of prescriptions by roughly 18%.
Dispensing fewer prescriptions not only eases the burden on pharmacists but also minimizes the potential for errors. It is a logical approach considering that generic medications, which account for over 90% of prescriptions, are low-cost and affordable. The incremental cost of providing a twelve-month supply of medication would only amount to a few dollars, making it financially sensible for patients.
Moreover, both pharmacists and physicians support the idea of six and twelve-month prescriptions. A study conducted by Ipsos found that 74% of pharmacists and 89% of physicians were in favor of implementing extended prescription supplies for patients on stable treatment plans. They believe it would enhance safety, save patients money and time, and reduce administrative burdens.
While there are existing state laws that allow physicians to prescribe twelve-month supplies for cash-paying patients, the real challenge lies in persuading insurance companies to cover extended supplies for maintenance medications. Most patients rely on insurance coverage for their prescriptions, and making this change would require cooperation from insurance providers.
In conclusion, embracing the concept of six and twelve-month prescriptions could be a game-changer for pharmacies, pharmacists, and patients alike. It would alleviate the strain on pharmacy resources, enhance patient safety, and improve adherence to long-term treatment plans. By working together, healthcare stakeholders can create a more efficient and effective system that prioritizes the well-being of both patients and providers.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. What are six and twelve-month prescriptions?
Six and twelve-month prescriptions refer to prescriptions that provide a year’s supply of medication but only need to be filled once.
2. How would six and twelve-month prescriptions benefit pharmacies?
By reducing the number of prescriptions that need to be filled, pharmacies can alleviate their workload and potentially improve patient safety.
3. Are there any financial advantages for patients?
Yes, because most maintenance medications are low-cost generics, the incremental cost of receiving a twelve-month supply is minimal, potentially saving patients money.
4. What do pharmacists and physicians think of extended prescription supplies?
A majority of pharmacists and physicians support the idea, believing it would enhance patient safety, save time and money, and reduce administrative burdens.
5. What challenges need to be overcome to implement six and twelve-month prescriptions?
The main obstacle is persuading insurance companies to cover extended supplies for maintenance medications. Policy changes would be necessary to ensure widespread coverage.