Marketing to Professionals: Senior-Care Specialists Surge - Pharmaceutical Executive


Marketing to Professionals: Senior-Care Specialists Surge
In light of the growing senior population, marketers are building partnerships with senior specialists.

Pharmaceutical Executive

The Elderly Consume More Medicine
Ultimately, MTM programs translate into better health outcomes, which can enable the senior population to live longer, healthier lives. "MMA will ultimately increase access to medications," says William Simonson, chairman of the Commission for Certification in Geriatric Pharmacy. "However, throwing a trillion dollars worth of medications at seniors may be doing them a tremendous disservice if the drug therapy is not properly monitored. The older population is extremely vulnerable to medication-related problems. If seniors gain access without proper education and controls, we could face an unimaginable epidemic of polypharmacy." Polypharmacy, or use of multiple medications, has the potential to induce drug interactions that adversely affect seniors.

Data show that the number of Medicare enrollees afflicted with multiple chronic conditions is extremely high. "When you look at an elderly patient's profile, they may be on 10 scripts per month for maintenance of chronic conditions," says Melinda Odom, senior clinical pharmacist with CarePlus Health Plans. In fact, the Academy of Managed Care Pharmacy states that approximately 80 percent of Medicare-eligible seniors have multiple chronic conditions and about 20 percent of Medicare beneficiaries have five or more chronic conditions. More than two-thirds of Medicare spending goes toward the latter population.

MTM programs are specifically designed to prevent these negative outcomes and keep seniors on track with their drug regimes. By calling for medication treatment plans, regular drug reviews, therapy-response monitoring, verbal education and training, and support services for patients, these programs can increase adherence and decrease adverse drug events among the Medicare population.

Demand for Geriatric Specialists

While many Medicare plans have not publicly announced the details of their MTM programs, pharmacists are expected to play a crucial role in their implementation. "With the new Medicare guidelines, there is a huge opportunity for geriatric pharmacists and the specialized expertise they bring to the table," says Chitre. She says there will be a push to work with pharmacists who have expertise in geriatrics to help create better health outcomes, maximize efficiencies in drug therapy, and identify cost-saving opportunities.

Certified Geriatric Pharmacists
"I've seen so many situations where problems were caused by drug therapy," says Simonson. "So many times these negative outcomes were entirely preventable. By participating in the coordination of drug therapies of elderly patients, geriatric pharmacists play the role of risk managers—for both patients and physicians."

In addition to MTM programs, CMS provides guidance to Medicare plans by providing geriatric-specific insight for the formulary design process. CMS mandates that Medicare plans have a P&T Committee including at least one practicing pharmacist or physician who specializes in care for the elderly or disabled. Specifically, P&T committees will now have to focus on products unique to the senior population, such as medications for Alzheimer's disease.

"The new Medicare prescription-drug benefit and medication-therapy management programs are a whole new frontier for pharmacists," says Chitre. "We need to be educated on how to treat patients, lower costs, and decrease side effects in the elderly population."

Marketing to Senior Specialists

Pharma companies that specialize in marketing products to the senior population are starting to recognize senior-care specialists as an influential new group within the managed care arena. "We are monitoring trends in geriatric pharmacy and are looking to create early partnerships with organizations seeking to improve pharmacy care for the elderly," says Tom Koenig, senior director of segment marketing for Endo Pharmaceuticals.


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