Aetna Fights Drug Duplication

June 13, 2008 ( - Aetna announced it has expanded its therapeutic duplication program after it achieved a 70% reduction in members who receive multiple prescriptions for the same ailment.

An Aetna news release said its therapeutic duplication program, started in January 2007, has been available to members taking thecholesterol-lowering statin class of drugs and is designed to prevent health risks from serious side effects from the multiple drugs.

Results showed over 4,800 incidents of possible therapeutic duplication were identified among Aetna members in the statin class. Of those, pharmacists avoided filling 3,500 duplicate prescriptions.

The insurer said it is including additional drug classes to the program:

  • Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor (SSRI) antidepressants,
  • Proton pump inhibitors used to treat ulcers, and
  • “Triptan” drugs used to treat migraine headaches.

Therapeutic duplication can occur when two doctors are prescribing medications for the same patient or when a doctor changes from one medication to another within the same therapeutic class, but the patient doesn’t discontinue the first medication. Aetna uses its claim system to help identify members who may be at risk of therapeutic duplication for specific medications and provides an alert to the pharmacist that duplication may be occurring.

“We need to remind people that medication errors pose a serious risk and can result in visits to the hospital or ER,” said Mark Rubino, Chief Pharmacy Officer, Aetna Pharmacy Management, in the news release. “The results we’ve seen with this program are proving that we are helping pharmacists and doctors protect members’ safety while helping to reduce medical costs.”

Statins have been associated with serious adverse reactions including elevated liver enzymes and rhabdomyolysis, a serious condition that can lead to acute kidney failure. These effects are more likely with high medication doses and increased serum statin concentrations, Aetna said.