Support for doctor-filled scripts: a warning sign for retail pharmacy?

ST. LOUIS In what could be either a worrisome sign of an increasingly fickle pharmacy consumer or a tempest in a teapot, researchers acting at the behest of a company that caters to physicians have found what they describe as widespread support for the idea of doctor-dispensed prescriptions.

Three out of four Americans in a nationwide poll appeared to support the concept of having their prescriptions filled by their doctors at the point of care, according to Purkinje, a health care technology and services company that partners with physicians. The poll, conducted by Opinion Research, found that a majority of consumers appear willing to try doctor-dispensed prescriptions rather than going to their neighborhood pharmacies.

The biggest factor is convenience, according to pollsters. "Overall preference for office-based medication dispensing appears to be driven by the prospect of saving time and improving quality of care," noted a report on the study.

An overwhelming majority of respondents, 84 percent, said such a service would be more convenient, and 62 percent said it would help them better manage their health, according to researchers.

According to Purkinje, the findings suggest that "physicians are missing an opportunity to improve patient satisfaction and enhance revenue by not dispensing medicine in their office." But the study’s results are troublesome for chain and independent pharmacies, which are already under assault from mail-order pharmacy, mandatory mail-order prescription plans and Medicaid reimbursement cuts, among other threats.

For pharmacy leaders, however, the findings might come with a few grains of salt. Purkinje describes itself as a specialist in providing physicians with computer-driven solutions to "save time, maximize income and provide optimal care for their patients." Its products include software for practice management, electronic health records, billing and what it calls "medication fulfillment."

Reacting to the report, Mary Ann Wagner, senior vice president of policy and regulatory affairs for the National Association of Chain Drug Stores, cited the drawbacks for any patient who cuts pharmacists out of the health care equation.

"Pharmacists not only dispense medications," Wagner told Drug Store News. "They play a critical role in their patients’ health by monitoring potential drug interactions and allergies. If a patient is being treated by more than one health care provider, it would be more difficult to detect harmful drug interactions if the patient is receiving multiple medications from different doctors or pharmacies."