How Pharmacists Are Helping Hep C Patients

December 5, 2017

A Walgreens study found that pharmacist collaboration helps Hep C patients with better outcomes and cheaper co-pays.

Pharmacists know that when they are more involved with patient care, patient outcomes improve. New research confirms that not only can pharmacists help improve outcomes, they can also even save patients money.

A collaboration between a Walgreens local specialty pharmacy and Piedmont Healthcare’s hepatitis C clinic in Atlanta resulted in 94% of patients prescribed direct-acting antiretrovirals (DAAs) achieving the primary outcome goal of sustained virologic response (SVR). The patients in this new study, from the Walgreens Center for Health and Wellbeing Research, included those with advanced liver disease, previous treatment failure, or liver transplants.

The study also found the hepatitis C patients were able to access therapies quicker and had lower co-pays compared to those seen with other published studies. The research was published in the Journal of the American Pharmacists Association and used a joint clinical database of patients who were prescribed DAAs to assess various outcomes including time-to-therapy, SVR, insurance appeals, and co-pay assistant amounts.

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Even though many of these patients had advanced disease, the SVR rates were similar to those published in clinical trials, the study found. Among other key takeaways, the study showed patient co-pays were reduced to less than $20 per month for the majority of patients after insurance appeals and financial assistance initiated by the Walgreens pharmacy team, and about 71% received their medication within 10 days-even with requirements for prior authorizations.

Shauna Markes-Wilson, RPh“We’re able to reduce those barriers and decrease time to treatment and navigate that process for the patients,” Shauna Markes-Wilson, RPh, an author of the study and a local specialty pharmacist in Atlanta, told Drug Topics.

“The pharmacists will help with paperwork, preauthorizations, keeping in touch with patients and physicians, following up with insurance companies and seeking out ways to reduce the costs for patients by dealing with the pharmaceutical companies and nonprofit organizations,” she said.

The study began as a way to get concrete data on how the relationship between the hepatitis C patients and Walgreens local specialty pharmacy at Piedmont Healthcare was working, Markes-Wilson explained. Walgreens has nearly 100 hepatitis C specialized pharmacies across the country where pharmacists and pharmacy staff are trained to collaborate with hepatitis C medical providers to ensure timely and affordable access to treatment. Using charts and data pulled from Walgreens Connected Care system, the study examined records and outcomes for patients prescribed DAAs from December 2013 to December 2015.

 

“Our providers and nursing staff at Piedmont Transplant had known that a collaborative approach with the Walgreens specialty pharmacy was improving access to expensive but highly curative Hepatitis C medications, but we had never examined the data to quantify the benefits,” Lance L. Stein, MD, a hepatologist at Piedmont Transplant Institute in Atlanta, said in a prepared statement. “By combining our patient level data we can now quantify this collaboration’s benefits in expediting access to medications, lowering costs, and still achieve the high rates of cure seen in DAA clinical studies.”

Noting that the Piedmont patients are sicker than most patients with hepatitis C, including transplant patients, Markes-Wilson said to “get such a high SVR rates with sick patients is really a testament to our work and the collaboration.”

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A big part of what the Walgreens specialty pharmacy team does is patient education and checking for drug interactions and adherence to protocols, she noted.

“We communicate regularly to ensure that patients are adherent to their care plans and address any side effects, while keeping our providers in the loop,” Markes-Wilson said. “The patient may only see his physician once a month, but we have multiple touch points throughout that time.”