Pharmacists to help 10 cities challenge diabetes

November 21, 2005

The American Pharmacists Association Foundation is building on the successful Asheville Project model by challenging employers in 10 cities to improve care and rein in costs by teaming community pharmacists with diabetes patients.

The American Pharmacists Association Foundation is building on the successful Asheville Project model by challenging employers in 10 cities to improve care and rein in costs by teaming community pharmacists with diabetes patients.

The Pittsburgh Business Group on Health and the Northwest Georgia Healthcare Partnership were the first two employer groups to sign on to the Diabetes Ten-City Challenge sponsored by the APhA Foundation with funding from GlaxoSmithKline. Workers participating in the voluntary benefit will be paired with a trained community pharmacist who will be paid to help them better manage their diabetes. Their drug copayments will be waived in order to encourage compliance with their medication regimen.

"We're in discussions with multiple groups with a goal to identify the 10 cities by the end of the year or the first quarter of next year," said William Ellis, APhA foundation executive director-CEO. "This is a new approach, but there's no shortage of interest. There is a huge potential for national growth. This is a logical expansion of all the programs we've been involved in. Some patients will be actively involved and seeing pharmacists by Jan. 1."

"I am sold on this program," said Judy Pair, Mohawk Industries benefits director and board member of the Northwest Georgia Healthcare Partnership. "It's incredible. The whole key is the education and the relationship people build with the pharmacist they meet on a regular basis. Employees are so appreciative of the pharmacist's time to explain things they did not know, and they work more closely with their doctors as a result."

The Pittsburgh Business Group on Health was sold on the diabetes challenge by the positive results of the Asheville Project, which has grown to 1,000 workers and seven employers. Since its launch in 1997, employers in the program have saved between $1,622 and $3,356 per participant annually in reduced diabetes-related emergency room visits and hospitalizations.

"Our members were anxious to explore how a similar program could be implemented in Pittsburgh," said Christine Whipple, executive director of the coalition, which represents 64 groups with more than a million covered employees, dependents, and retirees.

The APhA Foundation will be recruiting pharmacists to participate in the program. They will be trained to collect data that will be analyzed by the foundation and shared with the employer groups. If they need to brush up on diabetes, the foundation will make available the APhA diabetes certificate program.

"We have pretty good connections with pharmacists through state pharmacy organizations and our chain drugstore relationships, so it's not a huge challenge to find pharmacists who want to participate," said Ellis. "Obviously, with the training pharmacists have coming out of pharmacy school today, they are well equipped to do this. There is real interest in opportunities to take care of patients, and if you can build it into a business model, there's an even greater interest."