Pharmacist response to alerts generated from Medicaid pharmacy claims in a long-term care setting: results from the North Carolina polypharmacy initiative

J Manag Care Pharm. 2005 Sep;11(7):575-83. doi: 10.18553/jmcp.2005.11.7.575.


Objective: In response to burgeoning drug costs, North Carolina (NC) Medicaid encouraged pharmacists and prescribers to develop collaborative programs to reduce drug expenditures. One of these programs, the North Carolina Polypharmacy Initiative, was a focused drug therapy management intervention aimed at reducing polypharmacy in nursing homes. This intervention targeted patients with more than 18 prescription fills in 90 days, beginning in November 2002. These patients were believed to have a high likelihood of experiencing potential drug therapy problems (PDTPs). Consultant pharmacists were asked to utilize profiles displaying alerts generated from pharmacy claims to guide interventions in addition to usual-care drug regimen reviews. The pharmacists documented their reviews, recommendations, and resulting changes in drug therapy. Our objectives were to determine (1) the persistence of PDTP alerts following interventions by consultant pharmacists and (2) the impact of these interventions on patient drug costs from a payer perspective.

Methods: A before-after study with comparison group design was used. Medicaid prescription claims data were compared for the 90-day periods prior to the intervention (June-August 2002) and following the intervention (March-June 2003). The 90-day post-intervention period allowed for 2 to 3 follow-up prescriptions and reduced the drop-out rate. The 5 categories of potential problem alerts included potentially inappropriate medications (Beers criteria), substitution opportunity for a lower-cost drug, 16 drugs or drug classes with specific quality improvement opportunities (Clinical Initiatives list), therapeutic duplication, and length of drug therapy evaluation.

Results: A total of 253 nursing homes, involving 110 consultant pharmacists and 6,344 patients, were in the intervention arm, with 5,160 patients (81.3%) remaining at the end of the follow-up period. At baseline, study-group patients used an average of 9.7 prescriptions per month, costing the NC Medicaid program 517 US dollars per patient per month (PPPM). There were 6,360 recommendations offered for 3,400 patients, or an average of 1.87 recommendations per patient. Physicians concurred with 59.8% (3,801 of 6,360) of all recommendations to change drug therapy, about half involving a switch to a lower-cost drug. Two of 5 alert categories had significant (P <0.01) reductions in alert persistence: -10.8% for the study group versus -0.7% for the comparison group for the Clinical Initiatives list and -29.7% for the study group versus -14.1% in the comparison group for the drug substitution opportunity. Median drug costs per patient in the study group decreased by 12.14 US dollars (-0.92%), from 1,329.46 US dollars to 1,317.32 US dollars, and increased in the comparison group by 44.98 US dollars (3.35%), from 1,341.25 US dollars to 1,386.23 US dollars, creating a relative cost reduction of 57.12 US dollars per patient in the 3-month follow-up period, or 19.04 US dollars PPPM.

Conclusion: A supplemental program of medication reviews for nursing home patients targeted by high drug utilization resulted in a reduction in the persistence of PDTP alerts and was cost beneficial based solely on drug cost savings. This intervention may be a model for future medication therapy management services provided by prescription drug plans under Medicare Part D for patients in long-term-care settings and possibly ambulatory patients.

Publication types

  • Comment
  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Cooperative Behavior*
  • Cost Control / methods
  • Disease Management
  • Drug Therapy / economics
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Insurance Claim Review*
  • Male
  • Medicaid*
  • North Carolina
  • Nursing Homes*
  • Pharmacists*
  • Polypharmacy*