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CVS Deal to Support Affordable Drugs, Patient Treatment Access

The partnership will help pharmacists identify comparable, low-cost drugs, supporting affordable patient treatment access.

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Source: Thinkstock

By Sara Heath

- CVS Health and Epic Systems have announced a partnership for improving visibility of low-cost drug alternatives. The strategy should help patients overcome high drug costs barriers, which can often prohibit patient treatment access.

CVS Health will tap Epic’s Healthy Planet population health and data analytics tool to gather data about lower-cost medication alternatives, dispensing patterns, medication adherence, benefits information, and electronic prior authorization. These elements combined will enable patients, providers, payers, and prescribers to guide patients toward the most cost-effective medication.

The partnership will also connect Epic Systems end users and CVS Health pharmacists, driving collaboration and care coordination in patient-centered care, CVS Health officials said.

"This collaboration with Epic will enable us to continue to drive leading edge technology innovation beyond the pharmacy to the full health care system," said CVS Health Chief Information Officer Stephen Gold. "Together, our two companies will also examine opportunities to streamline and improve data sharing and linkages across the health care system to enhance communication and connectivity among patients, their physicians, the pharmacy and health insurers."

The move will also make it easier for CVS pharmacists to access patient EHR data, added Troyen A. Brenne, MD, Chief Medical Officer at CVS Health.

"This new relationship will help us further expand how we work with Epic and providers on their EHR system to develop meaningful tools and programs that will ultimately help us take even better care of the patients we support,” Brenned said.

At the root of this project is the goal to lower prescription drug expenses, the two organizations stated. CVS Health and Epic Systems plan on driving visibility for more affordable drugs by analyzing patient payer data and prior authorization data to point stakeholders in the direction of these effective, less expensive drugs.

Rising out-of-pocket drug costs are becoming a considerable burden to patient treatment access. A 2017 survey from Consumer Reports Best Buy Drugs found that one-quarter of patients are experiencing growing drug costs, and that it’s keeping them from effectively seeking treatment.

Of the respondents who reported an increase in drug costs, 24 percent said those increases totaled at about $50 and 47 percent said cost increases were at least $20. Fifteen percent of price increases were as high as $100.

“Those are big, burdensome increases for nearly 28 million consumers with very little indication that the problem of rising costs will be solved anytime soon,” said Consumer Reports Best Buy Drugs Deputy Editor Lisa Gill. “Consumers are seeing significant out-of-pocket cost increases across the board – from generics to treat common conditions to newer drug therapies.”

While some patients reported negotiating for a lower price or shopping around, rising medication costs deterred at least 14 percent of patients from filling their prescriptions altogether, the survey showed. Going forward, 24 percent of patients said they are not confident that they will be able to fill their prescriptions because of high costs.

Healthcare professionals across the country are working to make medications more affordable for patients, lest patients fall into a pattern of poor medication adherence. Poor medication adherence can have adverse health effects that end up costing more than the price of medications, research has pointed out.

Clinicians and pharmacists alike can work with patients to find an effective alternative drug that will come with less of a cost burden, or can prioritize certain treatments with chronically ill patients.

This recent partnership between CVS Health and Epic Systems will help forge the way for clinicians to identify effective alternative therapies for patients. The two entities can point to cheaper medications that can still keep patients healthy by identifying patient needs, medical conditions, and payer characteristics. Ultimately, this move will help remove barriers keeping patients from accessing treatments.

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