This excerpt taken from the UNH 8-K filed Dec 19, 2006.
MINNEAPOLIS (May 18, 2006) UnitedHealth Pharmaceutical Solutions, a division of UnitedHealthcare, is launching the second phase of its Half Tablet Program, a first-of-its-kind pill-splitting program designed to make medications more affordable for consumers and employers.
The Half Tablet Program was designed to support members who are actively looking for ways to save money on prescription medications. The program is voluntary, and members who choose to participate pay a reduced copayment for these medications.
According to Tim Heady, chief executive officer of UnitedHealth Pharmaceutical Solutions, the Half Tablet Program offers a potential savings of up to 1 to 2 percent of total drug spend, and members can save up to $300 annually.
The cost savings are possible because the medications included in this program have flat or similar pricing across dosages and are generally prescribed for one dosage daily. For example, a 20-milligram tablet of Lipitor, a drug used to lower cholesterol, is priced the same as a 40-milligram tablet. A member may purchase a 40-milligram tablet, and then split the medication for his or her daily dosage amount.
Consumers are asking what they can do to bring their prescription drug costs down and are turning to their health plans to offer innovative, cost-saving solutions, said Heady. The Half Tablet Program helps provide better access to necessary drugs and can improve compliance with these medicines by making them more affordable to more people. Better medication compliance can lead to better medical outcomes and healthier members.
This program is an excellent example of how health care consumers can easily lower what they spend on prescriptions drugs and help ensure ongoing compliance with important therapies, said Dr Lewis Sandy, UnitedHealthcares Executive Vice President, Clinical Strategies and Policy. It also encourages people to continue an open dialogue with their physicians regarding their health, which is a critical component of a patients overall well-being.
UnitedHealth Pharmaceutical Solutions/Half Tablet Program
According to the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, spending on prescription drugs in the United States rises more than 10 percent a year. Patients who pay for their own medications can reduce their drug bills by up to 50 percent with pill splitting. The U.S. Veterans Administration hospitals and some state Medicaid programs also ask patients who are prescribed certain medications to split pills. This practice helped the Veterans Administration save almost $50 million in 2003 on prescription drugs.
As a requirement of the program, a members physician must write a new prescription that is double the dosage and half the quantity of the medication, with instructions to take a half tablet rather than a full tablet. Physicians determine if splitting pills is appropriate for their patients.
UnitedHealth Pharmaceutical Solutions introduced the Half Tablet Program in March 2005 with a pilot program in UnitedHealthcares Wisconsin health plan. Results of the pilot led to the national launch of the program in the fourth quarter of 2005 to fully insured UnitedHealthcare members who were prescribed statin medications. UnitedHealth Pharmaceutical Solutions has found that 11 percent of members whose physicians prescribed one of the medications included in the program chose to participate, and the company has filled requests for more than 28,000 free pill splitters.
The second phase of the program will invite members of commercial fully insured and many self-funded groups to consider splitting pills for one of 16 different medications in five different therapeutic categories: ACE inhibitors, angiotensin receptor blockers, anti-depressants, lipid-lowering medications and antivirals. The 16 identified medications have no change in their efficacy if they are split. The program does not include all medications in a specific therapeutic class; only those medications determined to be appropriate for splitting are included.
My patients appreciate the Half Tablet Program because the money they save on the reduced co-pays helps them to stretch their health care budget further, said Dr. Robert Fox, a practicing family physician in Appleton, Wis. Patients are more likely to take prescribed medications when it is more affordable. That accessibility leads to better health outcomes, which is always my goal.