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Pharmacy services to deliver massive health care savings



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The P H A R M A C Y G U I L D o f A U S T R A L I A

N A T I O N A L S E C R E T A R I A T

11 November 1998

PHARMACYJiERVICES TO DELIVER MASSIVE HEALTH CARE SAVINGS

Community pharmacists can deliver huge savings of more than $2.8 billion a year for the national health care system, as well as "enormous" health benefits for Australian families.

One program alone - action to improve consumer medication compliance - could save up to $2.4 billion.

Mr John Bronger, National President of the Pharmacy Guild, released these figures today while outlining pharmacy's vision for the next century and calling on Australian governments to take up the health care challenges of the future.

Speaking at the Pharmacy Guild's annual dinner in The Great Hall, Parliament House, Mr Bronger said pharmacy's projections of massive savings and improved health care outcomes were realistic and achievable.

He released a Guild Issues Paper listing more than 180 Australian and international research studies over the past eight years.

"These studies demonstrate conclusively the value of pharmacy services and the very real potential for cost savings and health care benefits," he said.

"They show that if Australian governments support an innovative, modern approach to pharmacy services the dollar savings will be immense.

"As well as savings for the health care budget, services such as pharmacist interventions to encourage proper patient use of medications, medication reviews and disease state management programs can bring enormous benefits to the consumer.

"In the United States, an estimated $76 billion is spent each year because of problems with patients' use of medicines.

"Research shows these medication problems cause 8.7 million hospital admissions and 115 million visits to doctors.

"These figures have staggering implications for Australia, especially since the people most at risk of medications problem, the elderly, comprise a higher percentage of our population."

- Challenge for governments to facilitate innovative practices for 21st Century

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Mr Bronger said the Professor of Pharmacy Practice at Sydney University, Professor Charles Benrimoj, Senior Research Assistant Paula Whitehead and the Pharmacy Guild's Lance Emerson had prepared the extensive report on local and overseas research studies contained in the Guild's Issues Paper.

He said the report identified a wide range of services provided by community pharmacists including the provision of drug information, clinical interventions, medication management services, preventive care sen/ices and information and advice on minor ailments and over-the counter medicines.

The report said: "Community pharmacists perform countless activities that benefit patients and physicians, save money for the purchasers of health services and enhance the delivery of health care services.

"Paradoxically, the impact of pharmacist services including clinical interventions has not been reimbursed in Australia."

Mr Bronger said Australia had "the best system of community pharmacy in the world" through the network of nearly 5,000 community pharmacies across the nation.

"We are already co-operating with the Federal Government on a number of initiatives which underline the potential for savings and better health outcomes for patients including greater pharmacist involvement in health care services in nursing homes and hostels," he said.

"The Guild will lobby Federal, State and Territory Governments to try to ensure the potential identified in the Issues Paper is achieved.

"A system of payment - designed to expand and improve community pharmacist services - would result in improved patient compliance, reduced inappropriate medication use, fewer preventable adverse drug effects and interaction, reduced hospitalisation, reduced GP visitation and a better quality of life for the Australian community."

EXAMPLES OF POTENTIAL SAVINGS:

1. According to Professor Benrimoj, a study (Fincham 1997) on compliance reports that non-compliance results in 120,000 deaths and US$20 billion in health care costs in the U.S. each year.

The study reports that half of all patients are estimated to be non- compliant with their medication regimens and up to 20% of prescriptions are never filled.

Extrapolation of these figures points to potential savings in Australia of A$2.4 billion.

2. A 1998 study of medication management projects annual savings of $240 million in ambulatory patients in medications alone (Krass 1998, unpublished). The study estimates potential savings at $240 per person per year for each of a million high risk elderly patients.

3. Disease state management is another area where major savings may be achieved. There are potential savings of $156 million in asthma patients alone (extrapolated from study by Gilbert 1997). National Asthma Campaign figures estimate Australia has more than 2 million asthmatics.

4. Based on a 2% intervention rate, clinical interventions could produce savings of up to $30 million a year (Benrimoj et al, 1998).