- Drugstore chain CVS Health Corp. on Wednesday launched a new tool designed to enable the 30,000 pharmacists who staff its stores find patients the cheapest option for their prescription drugs.
- Dubbed "Rx Savings Finder," the tool will allow pharmacists to search for lower-cost options under a patient's insurance plan, including therapeutic alternatives with equivalent efficacy as well as generic drugs, CVS noted.
- "Our direct experience is that patients who are confronted with high out-of-pocket costs at the pharmacy counter are less likely to pick up their prescriptions and are less likely to be adherent to their prescribed therapy," said Kevin Hourican, head of retail pharmacy at CVS Pharmacy, in an April 11 statement.
Debate between pharma and payers has spilled over into the pharmacy, as two sides of the healthcare industry spar over the other's hand in the rising drug costs directly borne by patients.
That back and forth has drawn scrutiny on a wide range of previously little known practices, such as the "gag clauses" imposed by some to prevent pharmacists from informing patients when paying cash would be cheaper than using insurance.
CVS Health's latest cost program looks to be an effort to cut through some of that fog, handing pharmacists the information they'd need to guide a patient to the cheapest out-of-pocket option.
CVS pharmacists can use the tool to review whether a drug is on a patient's insurance formulary and if other lower cost-options exist. Notably, CVS said its tool would show pharmacists when a cheaper and therapeutically equivalent alternative was also covered by a patient's pharmacy benefit.
A pharmacist could also see whether patients could save money by filling a 90-day prescription rather than a 30-day prescription.
The software will be available first to CVS Caremark PBM members, but CVS plans to roll out the program more broadly throughout 2018. The drug chain giant is also in the midst of a bid to buy insurer Aetna Inc. for $69 billion.
By giving pharmacists more information at the point of sale, CVS reinforces its existing efforts to provide physicians with more visibility into patient costs when they are writing prescriptions. Through a deal with Epic Systems Corp., CVS can provide doctors with member-specific costs for a given drug, along with five therapeutic equivalents on that member's formulary.
The drug chain says providers who used the real-time benefits information switched patients to an on-formulary drug 85% of the time.
CVS already boasts one of the largest pharmacy chains in the U.S., as well as a top pharmacy benefit manager. In December, it announced its offer for Aetna, which could give the company unparalleled scale and a hand in each stage of drug supply chain.
Boosting patient adherence by lower out-of-pocket costs would help any larger insurer, as would steering patients toward lower-cost generics or therapeutic equivalent.