CVS Health is kicking off a new and improved tool that will alert its 30,000 pharmacists of less expensive drug choices whenever they fill prescriptions for patients.
In the recent years, pharmacists have used generic drugs to replace identical brand-name versions. Now, CVS Pharmacy’s Rx Savings Finder program gives pharmacists and consumers the ability to compare different doctors’ prescriptions for them to find a more available choice.
If the software shows a cheaper therapeutic equivalent, the pharmacist will convey it to the patient. He or she will then request for permission from the doctor to give the substitute drug. In addition, the software is being made available directly to CVS Caremark consumers via an app.
According to Kevin Hourican, executive vice president of retail pharmacy, customers are less likely to buy an expensive drug.
“We want to be known as the retail pharmacy that does the most to help save patients money,” he said. “The power of this tool, the RX Savings Finder, is we have access to the information that we need to be able to provide options to our customers to save them money.”
During an initial testing program, CVS discovered that 95 percent of patients grab the opportunity to switch prescriptions if they could, and 85 percent of doctors would do the switch. Last year, Caremark gave physicians an application that let them check prices via electronic health records.
“Doctors, as well as our pharmacy teams, were flying blind before the implementation,” Hourican stated. He also added that the software should be available to more consumers this coming summer.
Pharmacy business management, which is the business of comparing and negotiating drug prices for insurers and employers, has come under fire for the role it plays in drug pricing.
The Trump administration has emphasized consolidation in the pharmacy benefit management industry and tagged it as one of its major concern. At present, two of the biggest players in the industry are edging closer toward huge mergers, which will go under federal antitrust scrutiny. CVS is one of them. The company is set to buy health insurer Aetna for $69 billion.
Meanwhile, CVS says that providing ample information on more available alternatives to pharmacists, doctors, and consumers will help them save a lot of money, adding that it’s necessary since every insurance plan may greatly vary when it comes to the coverage of drugs, shifting costs onto patients.
“Before this tool was developed, they would not know which was least expensive for that given customer’s plan,” said Hourican.
Walid Gellad previously pointed out that the cost information given to doctors in incomplete. Gellad is the co-director of the Center for the Pharmaceutical Policy and Prescribing at the University of Pittsburgh.
“I think the problem is there’s more and more of this interruption in the clinic—at the point of prescribing, at the point of everything. Eventually, there’s a limit to how much clinicians can take, to the point where they’re actually trying to get away from the electronic medical record and talk to the patient,” he said.