Magazine article Drug Topics

New RxHub Concept Sparks Some Interest, Some Questions

Magazine article Drug Topics

New RxHub Concept Sparks Some Interest, Some Questions

Article excerpt

A surprise move by the nation's three largest pharmacy benefit managers to create an industrywide electronic prescribing standard and data exchange is winning cautious support. The new company, dubbed RxHub LLC by founders AdvancePCS, Express Scripts, and Merck-Medco Managed Care, has also raised a flurry of questions.

"From a PBM standpoint, it sounds good, said William Lockwood, president of the American Association for Automation in Pharmacy. "But is it actually executable? Will physicians buy into electronic prescribing? Are pharmacists going to pay more transaction fees?" Lockwood credited PCS with the basic concept-linking physician offices with PBMs the same way pharmacies and PBMs now communicate electronically. Using a wireless handheld device or a desktop computer, the physician would check the patient's drug plan formulary, eligibility rules, and drug history before writing a script, then submit it to the pharmacy electronically.

The problem: There are no standards for e-prescribing and no infrastructure to connect physicians with PBMs or pharmacies. The answer: a joint venture company, RxHub, backed by $20 million each from the three founding PBMs. Their announced goal is to create both standards and infrastructure within 12 months. There's also a standing invitation to other PBMs and players in pharmaceutical and medical care to join the venture. The projected results: fewer telephone calls from R.Ph.s to physicians to switch products because of drug plan rules or drug interactions, no more medication errors due to illegible Rxs, shorter patient wait times in pharmacies, more time for RPh.s to spend with patients, and lower drug distribution costs.

RxHub parallels many of the technology policy proposals up for debate at the American Pharmaceutical Association annual meeting in San Francisco this month. "Pharmacists currently are spending too much time puzzling out formulary and plan details rather than counseling their patients," said Lucinda Maine, APhA senior vp. of professional affairs. "The players are ready for a change."

Richard Fry, senior director of pharmacy affairs at the Academy of Managed Care Pharmacy, said RxHub looks promising. "It's a step to reducing medication errors," he said. "That the PBMs have tried to develop standards as opposed to having them imposed from the outside is a strong plus. …

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