Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina Waives Copayments on Drugs for Chronic Conditions

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BCBSNC to launch program to encourage members to save money and stay on their medications.

We have shown that when patients can afford their medication, they take their medication

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina (BCBSNC) will waive the copayment on all generic medications that treat congestive heart failure, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes effective January 1, 2008. In addition, more than 40 brand-name drugs that treat these specific conditions will be moved into a lower-cost drug classification category to make them more affordable. It’s all part of a new medication adherence program, called Medication Dedication(SM), designed to make prescription drugs more affordable and encourage members with chronic conditions to take their medications as directed.

“The failure of patients to follow medication plans is a significant problem,” said Dr. Ron Smith, BCBSNC vice president of Employer Health and Pharmacy. “Medication Dedication makes it easier for our members with common chronic conditions to access affordable prescription drugs and stay on their medications.”

According to the World Health Organization, only 50 percent of patients with chronic illnesses follow their physicians’ long-term medication therapy recommendations. The cost of prescription drugs is often a barrier to taking medications for chronic conditions as prescribed. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that approximately 125,000 people die per year of cardiovascular problems because they did not take their medication(s) as prescribed. The problem costs an estimated $100 billion annually. By targeting these four prevalent chronic conditions, BCBSNC believes members will stay healthier and, in the long run, keep their overall medical costs down.

“We have shown that when patients can afford their medication, they take their medication,” said Smith. “Applying a copayment waiver for generic drugs used to treat specific conditions is the next logical evolution in our ongoing efforts to help control health care costs.”

According to the Food and Drug Administration, generic drugs are the same as their brand-name counterparts in active ingredients, dosage, safety, strength and performance. The only noticeable difference between generics and their brand-name counterparts may be the shape and color of the drug. Also, while generic drugs are just as effective as corresponding brand-name drugs, they typically cost up to 80 percent less.

BCBSNC saved members $80 million in 2006 in out-of-pocket costs when the company waived copayments on all generic drug prescriptions. Generic drugs were prescribed 58 percent of the time, up from 46.8 percent in 2004.

The Medication Dedication program is expected to run through 2009. Members only need to present their BCBSNC ID card to a network pharmacy to receive the generic copayment waiver. A list of the generic drugs that are part of this program and the brand-name medications that will move into a less-expensive drug category can be found online at http://www.bcbsnc.com.

Listen to Dr. Ron Smith, BCBSNC's vice president of Employer Health and Pharmacy, talk about the company's efforts to promote cost-effective drug options: to http://onlinepressroom.net/bcbsnc/ .

About BCBSNC:
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina is a leader in delivering innovative health care products, services and information to nearly 3.6 million members, including approximately 825,000 served on behalf of other Blue Plans. For 74 years, the company has served its customers by offering health insurance at a competitive price and has served the people of North Carolina through support of community organizations, programs and events that promote good health. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association. Access BCBSNC online at http://www.bcbsnc.com .

Contact:
Mark Stinneford / Valerie Egel
BCBSNC Media Line: 919-765-3005    

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