Hagan introduces bill to help patients manage their meds

Medicare and Medicaid patients with a chronic condition will be able to review all their medications in one-on-one sessions with pharmacists under a bill introduced Tuesday by Sen. Kay Hagan (D-N.C.). The Medication Therapy Management (MTM) Expanded Benefits Act would also reimburse pharmacists to follow up and educate patients about their medication regimen.

"This bill will allow seniors with one chronic condition, such as diabetes or heart disease, to bring all of their medications to the pharmacy and ensure they are following doctor's orders," Hagan said in a statement. "If more seniors properly follow their medication regimens, we can save lives and Medicare dollars."

Currently 12.9 percent of seniors in the Medicare prescription drug program — all of whom have multiple chronic illnesses — are eligible to participate in MTM programs. Hagan's bill would allow seniors with only one chronic illness to participate in the program at pharmacies, hospitals and other entities that distribute pharmaceutical drugs and provide MTM services.

The bill was immediately endorsed by the National Association of Chain Drug Stores (NACDS) and the National Community Pharmacists Association.

"By encouraging MTM services in neighborhood pharmacies, the bill would improve public health and reduce healthcare costs by helping patients to take their medications in the right ways and avoid complications with their drug therapies," NACDS President and CEO Steven Anderson said in a statement. "Patients suffering from chronic disease, be it diabetes, hypertension, asthma or other conditions, will benefit from these pharmacy services, which also strengthen the pharmacist-patient relationship."

Only half of Americans stay on their drug regimen, according to the NACDS. That costs as much as $290 billion a year, according to a recent analysis by the New England Healthcare Institute. 

Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) is an original co-sponsor of the legislation.

The bill is a companion measure to one Rep. Mike Ross (D-Ar.) introduced last year.