When it comes to our health and collective well-being, the old expression, “Rome wasn’t built in a day,” is surprisingly applicable. Whether it is simply getting in shape or working to lessen the symptoms of chronic illness, achieving positive health outcomes is a long-term goal that requires diligent effort. It goes without saying that time and persistence factor largely into the recovery process.
Healthcare providers are keenly aware of this reality, and it is for this reason that patients are asked to make and keep consistent appointments, work toward defined fitness and dieting goals, and take medication as instructed. This last point is particularly crucial as medication adherence—taking medications as prescribed by a doctor—has been shown to improve one’s overall health and wellness.
Over the years, doctors have worked with pharmacists to come up with a practical method of promoting greater rates of medication adherence: a tactic called refill synchronization. This method allows patients to coordinate the refill dates for all of their medications so that they can pick them up at the same time each month. In turn, this technique improves patient access and allows for more personalized and effective care plans.
Unfortunately, while pharmacists play a key role in ensuring positive health outcomes, their hands are tied when it comes to employing refill synchronization. Rather than make a decision based on an individual patient’s health and lifestyle needs, they are subjected to the mandates of health plans and insurance companies.
Despite how simple it is to implement these consumer protections, most insurers have failed to do so. As a legislator, I decided to address this lapse in our medical system and introduced legislation to make managing chronic disease easier for patients, caregivers, and healthcare providers alike. My bill, AB 2418, gives pharmacists greater flexibility when it comes to refill synchronization and includes a provision to allow patients with glaucoma and chronic eye conditions to get an early refill of their eye drops. It passed the Assembly unanimously last month and is now on the Governor’s desk for signature.
Governor Brown’s signature is critical because chronic disease affects millions of Californians and how they live their daily lives. According to the California Health Care Foundation, 40 percent of Californians have one or more chronic health conditions. Patients who do not take their medications as directed get sicker and frequently end up in the hospital or emergency room. Subsequently, those without health conditions are also impacted, as poor medication adherence amounts to a $190 billion drain on our system each year.
We simply cannot afford to be reactive in addressing this issue. For this reason, my bill sets a statewide standard to guarantee these protections for all Californians, which will in turn control costs.
Doctors agree that medication adherence is the key to recovery. Pharmacists know and understand the prescription needs of their patients better than anyone else. And those with chronic illness, often the most vulnerable of our society, deserve the freedom to work with their caregivers to craft an approach that is both effective and cost-efficient.
Allowing pharmacists to employ methods like medication synchronization is a responsible, proactive approach that makes sense to patients and practitioners alike; let’s hope Governor Brown believes the same and signs AB 2418 into law.