Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Knoxville pharmacists concerned as providers cut coverage of some compound medications

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - Some Knoxville area pharmacists are worried after a major prescription benefit provider is set to cut coverage for around a thousand drug ingredients commonly found in compound medications.
Some of those pharmacists are asking for patients to contact their employer's benefits office and urge them to keep their coverage for compound medicine.

Local pharmacists say Express Scripts has been cutting payments for some compound medications for the past several months. The cuts have been made in phases with the final phase occurring January 1.

Belew Drugs owner and pharmacist David Belew says his pharmacy has a lab dedicated to compounding medications. Each day, the pharmacy fills 300 prescriptions. About 10 of those will be compounded medications.

“We do a lot of compounding for children when commercially available products aren't made in the right dosage,” said Belew.

He's been paying close attention to policy changes related to compound medication coverage. He says several pharmacy benefits managers and insurance companies are cutting off payment for many compound medicines.

“The unwanted consequence of not covering these ingredients is that some patients who rely on compounded medications might not have access to those,” said Belew.

6 News contacted David Whitrap the Corporate Communications Director with Express Scripts and asked why the policy was changing.

He sent this statement reading in part "Some elements that are used to make compounded medications have been exorbitantly overpriced. If a patient truly needs a compounded medication covered by their plan, we will make sure they get it. But, by and large, compounded medications do not provide any additional clinical value over what is currently available. There are numerous FDA-approved or over-the-counter alternatives that patients can take."

Belew says there is waste in the health care industry, but blocking a thousand ingredients used to make compound medications isn't the best way to cut costs.

“There is going to be cost savings no question about that. Our real concern is that the cost savings comes at the risk of the patient's care,” said Belew.

Belew and other local pharmacists have been encouraging patients to contact their employer and opt out of the program cutting compound medications. Belew says if employers opt out though they may have to pay a higher premium since compound medications will continue to be covered.

The spokesperson for Express Scripts says 0.6 percent of their customers use compound medications.

He says the cost of the compound medication has been increasing exponentially with the average cost of compounded medication in 2012 being $90 to more than $1,000 now.

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