North Carolina R.Ph.s tackle polypharmacy

September 27, 2004

Building on their rousing diabetes disease management success with the Asheville Project, North Carolina pharmacists have been given another opportunity to strut their patient care stuff. State officials have set up a pilot program in two counties using pharmacists to help state employees manage multiple medications.

Building on their rousing diabetes disease management success with the Asheville Project, North Carolina pharmacists have been given another opportunity to strut their patient care stuff. State officials have set up a pilot program in two counties using pharmacists to help state employees manage multiple medications.

The participating pharmacies will be paid an as-yet-unspecified fee for two counseling sessions. If the pharmacists can deliver on the twin promises of better patient care and lower drug costs, the plan is to expand the polypharmacy program to the rest of the state.

The program was born when the state combed its database and found an overwhelming number of employees who had poor response to their medications, who take three or more medications daily, or who take medication for a chronic condition, said program administrator Stefanie Ferreri, clinical assistant professor, University of North Carolina School of Pharmacy. Facing up to the reality of escalating drug costs, the state decided to enlist pharmacists to tackle polypharmacy.

"State health plan officials recognized they have a population of patients costing a significant amount of money and they need to do something about it," said Ferreri, who will counsel patients in the Kerr Drug where she works as part of her college responsibilities.

The North Carolina Association of Pharmacists has hopes that the project will be expanded to all 100 counties and that pharmacists get the patient care message, said executive director Fred Eckel, R.Ph. "Our goal is that pharmacists begin to see that there will be opportunities to practice differently and to have a different income stream," he said.