Conference Coverage

Synchronizing refills saves money, improves outcomes



Synchronizing medication refills resulted in higher adherence, fewer hospitalizations, and lower health care costs in a cohort of patients with type 2 diabetes, according to research presented at the annual meeting of the Academy of Managed Care Pharmacy.

Dr. Matthew K. Pickering, director of research and quality strategies and PQA Denise Fulton/MDedge News

Dr. Matthew K. Pickering

Investigators with Pharmacy Quality Alliance (PQA) used data from Truven MarketScan Research Databases to conduct a retrospective cohort study of more than 20,000 patients eligible for inclusion in PQA’s diabetes medication adherence measure. To be included, patients needed to have two or more prescriptions for diabetes medications (excluding insulin), statins, or renin-angiotensin system antagonists. About 80% of patients were commercially insured and 20% came from Medicare supplement insurance (Medigap) plans.

Commercially insured patients whose medication refills were synchronized had better medication adherence than did matched controls (67.7% vs. 57.4%) and lower median health care expenditures ($3,687 vs. $7,480).

The same was true for patients with Medicare supplemental insurance. Synchronized patients in this group also had better medication adherence than controls, at 86.5% vs. 70.4% and lower median health care expenditures ($7,353 vs. $10,592).

Based on their findings in diabetes patients, “I think we should synchronize refills,” Matthew K. Pickering, PharmD, senior director of research and quality strategies at PQA, said. “However, there are populations that were not represented in this, like COPD [chronic obstructive pulmonary disease]. That’s another high-comorbidity, high-cost population that should be studied.”

Session moderator Laura Happe, PharmD, editor in chief of the Journal of Managed Care and Specialty Pharmacy, questioned Dr. Pickering about the barriers to medication synchronization.

In previous research, “we discovered that some patients were resistant to synchronizing their medication refills because of the copays – having all of their copays at one time, rather than spreading them out over the month,” Dr. Happe said.

“Certainly, patients may not be able to afford all their copays at one time, so that can be a barrier,” Dr. Pickering said. “With medication synchronization programs, there’s a lot of variation across the board. Patients can choose which medication to synchronize in some programs. Others only synchronize the three-star medication, etc. But there are real barriers and they should be explored.”

Pharmacy Quality Alliance is a nonprofit public-private partnership that develops pharmacy quality measures in collaboration with the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

Dr. Pickering disclosed no relevant conflicts of interest.

Next Article: