A New Zealander Takes U.S. Pharmacy to Task

Welcome to 2020! We’re kicking it off right by bringing you 20 voices germaine to the California Broker world. Of course, this is not a ranking or top 20 list. We do think our contributors are tops, but we’ve merely arranged the pieces in alphabetical order by last name. You’ll see that we have some longer contributions and some short Q&As and conversations. Our aim was to mix it up—and invite a few fresh faces to contribute along with a few regulars. Read on for what’s on these folks’ minds for 2020….

By Casey Macpherson, COO of Rx Manage

As a pharmacist living in New Zealand working with clients in the United States, I watch the rising cost of healthcare and in particular the costs of prescription medication with a sense of disbelief. The U.S. spends 30-190% more on prescription medications that other developed countries, and can pay up to 174% more for the same prescription medication than other countries. I feel fortunate that here in New Zealand, with a single-payer system we pay no more than $5 for a prescription medication, making the cost barrier to accessing medication non-existent.

I travel to the U.S. several times a year to attend various benefit expos and conferences. When talking to brokers I consistently hear that the rising cost of prescription medications is becoming a significant concern for employers. A variety of cost containment strategies are being put in place by employers in an attempt to reduce their burgeoning healthcare spend. Frequently these strategies result in increased deductibles, co-payments and out-of-pocket limits for the employees. This can have unfortunate results: I have read many studies that indicate that increased patient cost sharing can be associated with decreased medication adherence, and poorer health outcomes.

As a pharmacist that concerns me greatly as we see what happens when patients are not compliant on their medications. Asthmatics end up in the emergency room, diabetics end up with uncontrolled blood glucose levels, which can lead to a host of complications, and those with heart disease are at risk of a serious cardiac event. I recently read the results of a survey that found that of the 59% of Americans that regularly take medications 34% have taken less than their prescribed dose or not filled a prescription due to cost. Nobody should have to make that sort of choice.

I truly believe that by providing access to lower cost medications, Rx Manage makes a difference to people’s lives and health outcomes. We do this by using our network of international pharmacies to source medications at up to 70% less than the cost in the U.S. Additionally, medications on our formulary have a $0 co-pay, further eliminating the cost barrier to accessing much needed medications. Members are able to stay compliant, resulting in better health, and less emergency room visits. Employers are saving up to 70% on their prescription claims. Everybody wins!

For a team like ours, made up of healthcare professionals, there is no better feeling than knowing that we have played a part in improving member’s access to affordable medication. We frequently are told by members how much they appreciate our program.

I feel really blessed to associate with like-minded people in the broker community this year. We are all working toward the same goal: to drive down healthcare costs for both employers and employees.

I am excited to see the Rx Manage program reach grow in 2020 and continue to contribute toward improved access to medications, and financial easing of healthcare costs for employers.

Casey Macpherson is COO of Rx Manage, an international pharmacy program headquartered in New Zealand. She is a registered pharmacist with the New Zealand Pharmacy Council and a member of the New Zealand Pharmaceutical Society.