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Pill-Splitting Program Cut Member Out-of-Pocket Costs by $1.7 Million

Increased participation could increase savings

BLOOMINGTON, Minn.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Apr 13, 2009 - HealthPartners pill splitting program reduced costs by $5.5 million over the past two years. Members saved $1.7 million in out-of-pocket costs and the program cut an additional $3.8 million in HealthPartners costs in 2007 and 2008. Medications in the program, called HealthPartners Half-Tablet Advantage, cost the same regardless of the strength. For example, a pill with 40 mg of a medication costs about the same as a pill with 80 mg. Physicians can prescribe a double strength and patients can then split the pills. This cuts patient's out-of-pocket costs in half. Employer and health plan costs decrease 37 percent.

Greatest opportunity: Lipitor, Lexapro

The greatest savings in HealthPartners Half-Tablet Advantage Program are from the brand name drugs Lipitor (for cholesterol) and Lexapro (for depression). Other drugs in the program include the generic drugs Simvastatin (generic Zocor for cholesterol), Sertraline (generic Zoloft for depression) and Paroxetine (generic Paxil for depression).

Fewer than one in four take advantage of savings

“Fewer than one in four HealthPartners members taking Lipitor and Lexapro are currently in this program, so there is a significant opportunity to help make healthcare more affordable for members,” said Richard Bruzek, HealthPartners vice president for pharmacy services. Nearly 6,000 HealthPartners members with Lipitor and Lexapro participated in the half-tablet advantage program in 2008. An estimated 25,000 additional members taking these medications could participate in the program. The potential savings from increased participation would be $4.2 million.

No increase in HealthPartners prescription drug costs in 2008

“Generic drugs are a major success story in the fight against rising healthcare costs and pill splitting represents another significant opportunity for consumers, employers and health plans to cut drug expenses,” said Bruzek. Bruzek noted that generic drug use is the main reason why HealthPartners drug costs did not increase in 2008. Generic drugs cost about $130 less per prescription than brand name drugs. Every one percent increase in generic drug use decreases costs by $9 million for HealthPartners and its members.

About HealthPartners

Founded in 1957, the HealthPartners ( family of healthcare companies serves more than one million medical and dental health plan members nationwide. It is the largest consumer-governed, nonprofit health care organization in the nation, providing care, coverage, research and education to improve the health of members, patients and the community. For the third year in a row, HealthPartners is rated one of the best commercial health plans in the nation by U.S. News & World Report, NCQA's “America's Best Health Plans 2007.”

Contact: HealthPartners
Patricia Lund, 952-883-5308

Posted: April 2009