Dispensing fees woefully inadequate, says study

February 19, 2007

When it comes to the cost of dispensing medications and the dispensing fee paid by Medicaid, a new study confirms the bad news that many pharmacists already know. The national average cost of dispensing medications is $10.50 per prescription, not including the cost of the medicine, according to The Cost of Dispensing, a national study released recently by the Coalition for Community Pharmacy Action (CCPA). The coalition is an alliance between the National Association of Chain Drug Stores and the National Community Pharmacists Association.

According to the study, the average dispensing fee paid by government programs such as Medicaid is approximately $4.50.

The study, conducted by the accounting firm Grant Thornton, reflects data from 23,152 community pharmacies nationwide. The survey requested data for the six months from March through August of 2006. The pharmacies reported filling more than 832 million prescriptions during the time, of which more than 65 million (7.8%) were paid by Medicaid.

"Inadequate dispensing fees, compounded by a cut to Medicaid prescription drug reimbursement, threaten patient access and the pharmacist's ability to continue to provide patients with quality health care," said Charles Sewell, copresident of CCPA.

Julie Khani, copresident of CCPA, told Drug Topics, "This study is a critical tool for us to use to advance the need for fair and accurate reimbursement for community pharmacies. It's a two-pronged attack. At the federal level, we will work with Congress to develop a definition of average manufacturer price (AMP) for reimbursement in the Medicaid program. We want to create a definition that actually represents retail pharmacies' cost to acquire prescription medications."

On the state level, Khani said CCPA will use the study as a tool to encourage state legislatures to increase Medicaid dispensing fees. "Community pharmacy is one of the most efficient highly automated components of the healthcare system," she said. "We use technology to service our patients better. We ask that we receive our payments quickly and promptly."

To get a free copy of the study, visit http://www.rxaction.org/.

In a separate but related development, NCPA has called on federal policymakers to take immediate steps to ensure that patients retain access to lifesaving Rx medicines. "If pharmacies are forced to close their doors or drop out of government-backed health programs, patient access to the medicines will be seriously threatened," warned Bruce Roberts, NCPA's executive VP/CEO.