PBM: Online Rx Comparison Tool Saving Patient $$

March 1, 2007 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - A new analysis has found that an online tool allowing comparison shopping for prescription drug cost savings has apparently prompted many patients to switch to a less expensive drug or drug buying channel.

A news release from pharmacy benefit manager Medco Health Solutions said the indication that patients were 58% more likely to take advantage of drug cost savings was a key conclusion of its customers’ buying habits study.

Medco’s study of more than 55,000 users showed that nearly 14% of members had their prescriptions changed to a lower-cost alternative after using Medco’s Savings Advisor tool — an increase compared to the control group that did not access the online shopping tool.

Results also indicated that half of the conversions initiated by members and approved by their physicians were from brand-name drugs to generic drugs.

“Member engagement to stimulate consumer behavior in health care is not an empty promise, and it’s not the future – it’s today’s reality,” said Tom Feitel, Medco’s Chief Web Officer, in the news release. “Effective online tools enable cost-effective behavior. When consumers are presented with clear alternatives, they will make smarter choices in spending their health care dollars.”

Members can print their Savings Advisor reports so they can discuss the lower cost alternatives with their physicians. Savings Advisor will also provide an authorization form for the prescribing physician to sign, according to the company.

Additional findings in the study:

  • In the Savings Advisor group, 51% of changes involved a switch from a brand drug to a generic drug.
  • 26% of the Savings Advisor group’s conversions involved a change from retail to the less expensive mail channel.
  • On average, members making a conversion to a lower-cost medication or channel saved $171 annually per drug on their out-of pocket expense.
  • The average age of patients in the Savings Advisor group was 56 years old; 57 years old in the control group.

The analysis identified adult patients who visited the Medco site between April 2 and April 29, 2006, and monitored their pharmacy activity for 180 days before and after that period. The study examined the prescribing patterns of 27,850 members using Savings Advisor and an equal number of registered members who did not.

More information is at    http://www.medco.com .