Health System Specialty Pharmacies' Role in Cost Reduction


From medication adherence to patient counseling, clinical pharmacists at health system specialty pharmacies can play a role in reducing health care costs.

When it comes to reducing care costs, health system specialty pharmacies have a role to play, according to Bill McElnea, vice president of population health at Shields Health Solutions.

“We really see a horizontal impact of good medication adherence across a range of different disease states,” from annualized relapse rate in multiple sclerosis or sustained virologic response in hepatitis C. “That really is the starting point for a whole lot.”

For multiple sclerosis—a disease with which nearly 1 million Americans are living—the annual economic burden is upwards of $85 billion: $1.1 billion of those costs are non-medical and include caregiving and home or vehicle modifications; $21 billion are indirect costs such as missed work and early retirement. But the majority of that economic burden—approximately $63.3 billion—is associated with direct medical costs, such as disease-modifying therapies and other medications, office and hospital visits, and medical equipment.1 When patients are adherent to their medications, McElnea said, they experience fewer complications, fewer hospital trips, fewer physician visits, and “that has a real bearing on costs.”

Outside of adherence, McElnea pointed to the increase in less traditional, non-pharmacy services that pharmacists are now providing, such as nutrition counseling and lifestyle counseling, which are “really impactful and important to so many different disease states.”

McElnea sat down with Drug Topics at AXS24, the Asembia Specialty Pharmacy Summit, held April 28 to May 3 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Click here for more of our coverage from AXS24.

1. Cost of multiple sclerosis. National Multiple Sclerosis Society. Accessed April 30, 2024.
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