Magazine article Drug Topics

S.C. Pharmacists Help Shape Medicaid Reform

Magazine article Drug Topics

S.C. Pharmacists Help Shape Medicaid Reform

Article excerpt

South Carolina officials looking to reduce costs in the state Medicaid program have tapped pharmacists to help in the effort by improving drug selection and adherence. The South Carolina Department of Health & Human Services is offering a $1.98 million grant to the South Carolina College of Pharmacy (SCCP) to implement the program, which will focus on Medicaid patients diagnosed with mental health disorders, HIV/AIDS, or cancer.

"The purpose of the program is to economically optimize how drugs are used in the Medicaid system to reduce costs while maintaining quality," explained Joseph DiPiro, Pharm.D., executive dean of SCCP, recently formed with the merger of the pharmacy schools of USC and the Medical University of South Carolina. "It is very important that we find ways to control drug expense," he said. The program is initially contracted for two years, but pharmacy school officials are hopeful it will last longer. He expects to hire a program director in early 2007.

Through efforts like this program, states are in fact beginning to rein in rising Medicaid costs. Earlier in the decade, Medicaid expenses were frequently rising 10% or more per year in many states, causing significant concern and pushing states to adopt a number of cost-cutting measures. According to Kaiser Family Foundation research, in fiscal year 2005 (the latest for which data are available) Medicaid spending rose 6% in South Carolina, compared with a 5% nationwide average. In 2005, South Carolina spent $500 million on Medicaid prescription medications-nearly 12% of the $4.2 billion program.

"We are always going to measure the price, and we believe it will save money in the end. But our primary goal is to create a center of excellence where physicians will have access to objective information that is relevant to South Carolina." commented Robert Kerr, director of South Carolina's Department of Health & Human Services, which operates the state's Medicaid program. "Doctors are bombarded with lots of information on drugs, especially from drug companies, and we want to provide something more objective."

Kerr noted that the state is also piloting another program that will give doctors on-line access to patients' Medicaid records to provide them with all the information they need to make the right decisions. …

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