Pharmacists’ role in BP control saves significant U.S. health care dollars
A new economic analysis published in JAMA Network Open finds that with a pharmacist-led intervention, 15 million heart attacks could be prevented for Americans as well as over a trillion dollars in savings for the health care system over 30 years.
The study, led by Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) researchers, provides data on the economics of pharmacist prescribing to improve BP control. All but one U.S. state give pharmacists prescriptive authority in collaboration with physicians. However, even though the United States has all the tools and resources to put pharmacist prescribing interventions in place, there is still no reimbursement for pharmacists to be paid for their clinical services.
The $1.1 trillion in health care savings over 30 years, or a cost savings of $10,162 per patient, stems from preventive measures, such as pharmacists educating patients on high BP and prescribing antihypertensive medication, as well as from helping patients better manage their BP. The ability to offer these services could mean a reduction in CV emergencies, which is crucial given the increasing mortality rates around hypertension. Over 30 years, patients could regain more than 30 million “quality-adjusted life years,” or years where their quality of life is significantly higher than it would have been if they were to have a health emergency.
Pharmacists’ services could also close gaps in poor outcomes for racial and ethnic minority groups, said Dave Dixon, PharmD, lead author of the study. Black patients aged 35–64 years had the highest rates of death due to hypertension of any racial or ethnic group in the United States, according to a 2020 study in the journal Hypertension. “Pharmacist-led interventions have been shown to significantly improve BP control among Black individuals and individuals of racial and ethnic minoritized groups,” wrote study authors.
Researchers also found that if pharmacists had a larger role in prescribing medications to control BP, they could prevent more than 15 million heart attacks, nearly 8 million strokes, and more than 4 million cases each of angina and heart failure in the United States over 30 years.
“Being that hypertension affects so many Americans—we’re talking about over 100 million people in the U.S.—I think the impact is tremendous because everybody knows somebody with high blood pressure,” said Dixon in a news release. “It’s one of the leading causes of heart disease and kidney failure in the world.”
As the U.S. faces a shortage of primary care professionals, Dixon, who is from VCU School of Pharmacy, said pharmacists could bridge that gap.
“Pharmacists’ role as health care providers tends to be underused in the community, and this is really about how pharmacists can provide for their communities in a way that improves access to care for hypertension,” said Dixon, who also serves as an affiliate professor of internal medicine in the Division of Cardiology at the VCU School of Medicine.
According to CDC, patients visit their community pharmacist 12 times more frequently than their primary care provider.