Specialty Pharmacy Lifts Hep C Drug Adherence

Feb 14, 2013
New data demonstrate that specialty pharmacies and the clinical expertise of specialist pharmacists are helping Hep C patients achieve healthier outcomes.
  • Hepatitis C

Chronic hepatitis C virus (HCV) affects an estimated 3.2 million Americans with another approximately 35% affected and unaware that they are carrying the virus. A long-term liver disease, HCV can lead to serious health complications, even death. It’s also a common cause of cirrhosis (scarring of the liver), liver cancer and the most common cause of liver transplantation in the U.S.

Successful HCV treatment requires a high level of adherence to a complex medication regimen over a prolonged period of time, while managing severe side effects. Combine that with high drug costs and the fact that many HCV patients are asymptomatic, and it becomes clearer why 40% of HCV patients are nonadherent to their medications, even though the consequences are dire.

New Data on the Importance of Specialty Pharmacy With HCV Patients

To shed light on adherence issues around chronic HCV patients, Express Scripts conducted a study released today by the American Journal of Pharmacy Benefits that compared the adherence rates of patients new to a ribavirin-interferon drug regimen who exclusively used only one of two pharmacy dispensing channels – a specialty pharmacy or a retail pharmacy. Patients were followed for up to 52 weeks after the start of treatment. The study found:

  • Patients using a specialty pharmacy had an 8.6% higher adherence rate than those using a retail pharmacy.
  • Specialty pharmacy patients had 15 fewer therapy gap days (days without any available HCV medication).
  • Patients who exclusively used a specialty pharmacy had a 60% higher likelihood of achieving optimum adherence compared with retail pharmacy users.

Why Specialty Pharmacies Perform Better

There are many barriers to adherence for HCV patients. Overcoming those barriers is essential to proper management of the disease to avoid the serious complications nonadherence can lead to. Express Scripts assists HCV patients by using real-time actionable data to identify adherence problems and then providing clinical consultations with HCV specialist pharmacists who teach patients proper drug self-administration and how to deal with difficult medication side effects.

Addressing adherence issues in HCV patients is particularly timely given the recent availability of two new drugs – telaprevir and boceprevir – to treat the disease. New treatment guidelines recommend the use of these novel protease inhibitors in combination with a ribavirin-interferon drug regimen for many HCV patients. The addition of an expensive new drug to the earlier two-drug standard treatment increases the complexity of the regimen and brings additional side effects patients have to face, while increasing the financial burden. Express Scripts specialty pharmacy, Accredo, is uniquely positioned to help patients address all of these issues.

This is one important example of how Express Scripts is helping patients make better decisions that lead to healthier outcomes.

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