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CVS Caremark Study Evaluates Which Pharmacy Channel Consumers Choose When Given Choice of Mail or Retail Prescriptions

WOONSOCKET, R.I., Jan. 19, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- When consumers are offered a cost-neutral choice to fill their 90-day prescription medications in a retail store or through a mail-order pharmacy, they split their preferences largely depending on their past experiences, a first-of-its-kind study from CVS Caremark (NYSE: CVS) has found.


The study, published in the January edition of the Journal of the American Pharmacists Association, the peer-reviewed journal of the American Pharmacists Association (APhA), reviewed the actions of approximately 325,000 plan members who were transitioning from pharmacy benefit plans that required mail pharmacy use for maintenance medications to Maintenance Choice over the first four months of the program, which began in January 2009.

Maintenance Choice is a plan design that gives members the option to fill their 90-day maintenance medication prescriptions through mail or at a CVS/pharmacy – for the typically lower mail order price and with reduced co-pays that are typically charged for mail order prescriptions.  Maintenance Choice was first offered in January 2009 by CVS Caremark as an option for plan sponsors that have or are considering a mandatory or voluntary mail prescription plan.

The study conducted by researchers from CVS Caremark and Harvard University assessed the selection of retail or mail pharmacy channels among individuals who first initiated therapy under Maintenance Choice and among those who had previously started therapy under a mandatory mail plan design.  The findings showed that of the members who previously got their prescriptions through mail, 76.3 percent chose to stay with mail service, while 23.7 percent moved their prescriptions to retail. For the group that was just initiating therapy for a recently diagnosed long-term chronic illness, 44.3 percent selected retail as their pharmacy of choice, while 55.7 percent selected mail service. For members who had no previous experience using a mail pharmacy, nearly 68% selected retail pharmacy for their maintenance medication prescriptions.  

"These results highlight the importance of constructing pharmacy benefit designs that provide members with affordable access to both retail and mail pharmacies," said Troyen A. Brennan, MD, MPH and Executive Vice President and Chief Medical Officer of CVS Caremark. "While it is clear people like having options, their preferences appear to depend on factors such as driving distance to a pharmacy, prior experience with mail service and age, with those who are younger favoring retail."

Brennan added that an important finding from the study showed members in Maintenance Choice plans tend to be more adherent to their medications.  "We are looking for ways to encourage people to stay on their medications as prescribed because it is one of the most cost-effective ways to manage a plan's health care costs and improve patient outcomes. Choice and convenience for consumers makes a difference in helping people stay adherent," he said.

The Maintenance Choice study is part of the CVS Caremark research effort aimed at better understanding how consumers interact with their pharmacy care provider so that they stay adherent to their medications. The study was conducted as part of a previously announced three-year collaboration between CVS Caremark, Harvard University and Brigham and Women's Hospital to research pharmacy claims data to better understand patient behavior around medication adherence.

CVS Caremark is undertaking these studies because patient non-adherence to essential chronic medications is widely recognized as a barrier to improving public health and a cause of increasing medical costs.  Past studies show one-quarter of people receiving prescriptions never fill their first prescription, and patients with chronic diseases such as diabetes and coronary artery disease adhere to their ongoing medication regimen about half of the time. Non-adherence to essential medications is a frequent cause of preventable hospitalizations and patient illness, with costs to the U.S. health care system estimated at about $290 billion annually.

About CVS CaremarkCVS Caremark is the largest pharmacy health care provider in the United States. Through our integrated offerings across the entire spectrum of pharmacy care, we are uniquely positioned to provide greater access, to engage plan members in behaviors that improve their health and to lower overall health care costs for health plans, plan sponsors and their members. CVS Caremark is a market leader in mail order pharmacy, retail pharmacy, specialty pharmacy, and retail clinics, and is a leading provider of Medicare Part D Prescription Drug Plans. As one of the country's largest pharmacy benefits managers (PBMs), we provide access to a network of more than 64,000 pharmacies, including approximately 7,100 CVS/pharmacy® stores that provide unparalleled service and capabilities. Our clinical expertise includes one of the industry's most comprehensive disease management programs. General information about CVS Caremark is available through the Company's Web site at SandbergCorporate Communications(401) 770-4914

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