Auburn Pharmacy program for university employees reports $1.3 million in first-year savings

AUBURN – TigerMeds, a pharmacy services program for Auburn University employees, has reported more than $1.3 million in savings on prescription costs for individuals and the university during the program’s first year.

Auburn’s group health insurance plan saved more than $1 million in prescription costs during the past year through implementation of the TigerMeds program. That figure is based on an external pharmacy benefit analysis by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama, administrator of the self-insurance plan.

In addition, participating Auburn employees and their families saved approximately $300,000 on their out-of-pocket prescription costs through the program, which began in November 2008, said Kimberly Braxton Lloyd, assistant dean for the Pharmacy Health Services Division. The division includes the Auburn University Pharmaceutical Care Center and the Auburn University Employee Pharmacy; both play key roles in the TigerMeds program.

Since financing for Auburn’s health insurance plan comes from premiums paid by the university and employees, university financial experts look to TigerMeds as part of a comprehensive effort to slow, if not reverse, the rate of premium increases for health insurance in the future for both the university and its employees.

TigerMeds is an optional expanded pharmacy benefit for Auburn employees. For participating employees, immediate savings for prescriptions range from a few dollars at a time – for those receiving generic medications prescribed for minor, occasional ailments – to $1,500 or more per year in co-pay costs. Those saving the most are usually employees and dependents who require medications for conditions such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, osteoporosis, allergies, depression, stomach problems and other chronic health issues.

Approximately 20 percent of on-campus employees are receiving pharmacy services from the university’s employee pharmacy in the W.W. Walker Building. Available to off-campus employees as well as those on campus, the TigerMeds program also provides courier delivery of prescriptions to participating faculty and staff at Auburn Montgomery and delivery by mail to Extension offices and research units away from campus.

Most prescription savings occur, Braxton Lloyd noted, when the pharmacists work with the prescriber to move the patient from a high-cost, brand-name medication to an alternative within the same “family” that has been shown in research to achieve the same treatment goal.

One example, she said, might involve the pharmacist performing a patient assessment and recommending a switch from the cholesterol-lowering drug Lipitor to an equivalent dose of simvastatin, the generic of Zocor, which is in the same drug class. She said the appropriate dosage of generic simvastatin can achieve the same lowering of LDL cholesterol in many patients who have mild to moderately elevated cholesterol.

“If this conversion is successful, and the patient achieves the same cholesterol goal, then the patient saves $480 per year in out-of-pocket co-pay costs for this one medication, and the university health plan saves as well,” she added.

“The goal of TigerMeds is to integrate the pharmacist into the healthcare team and for the pharmacist to provide medication evaluation and education,” Braxton Lloyd said.

She explained that the pharmacist works closely and communicates frequently with the patient and the prescribing physician. A pharmacist at the Employee Pharmacy will refer the individual to the Pharmaceutical Care Center to meet with a pharmacist for expanded medication evaluation, education, training and monitoring. The pharmacy team works to ensure that every patient is receiving the most from each medication that the patient takes, evaluates disease risks, makes wellness recommendations and provides immunizations and other services. Through the Harrison School of Pharmacy, pharmacists in the Employee Pharmacy have access to drug information resources and the latest research in medication outcomes.

While providing a direct benefit for participating Auburn employees, the center is developing and expanding a model of pharmacy services that graduates can apply in their communities and careers.

“For the university community, it is important that we are saving Auburn employees and the university money while helping improve health care outcomes,” Braxton Lloyd said. “Beyond campus, the model we are establishing at Auburn will carry over into improved pharmaceutical services across the state and region.”

For online information about the TigerMeds program, including enrollment information for Auburn University employees, see http://pharmacy.auburn.edu/tigermeds/.

Contact: Kimberly Braxton Lloyd, (334) 844-8364 (lloydkb@auburn.edu), or
Mike Clardy, (334) 844-9999 (clardch@auburn.edu)