Friday, October 3, 2003

Pharmacy board opposes splitting pills to save dollars for Medicaid

The Associated Press

LOUISVILLE - Taking advantage of drug pricing that sometimes provides twice the medicine for little more money, state Medicaid officials want to pay pharmacists to split certain pills and possibly save millions of dollars a year.

But the state Pharmacy Board opposes the plan, and its executive director said the practice could be considered "unprofessional conduct."

Pill splitting already is widely used - by some state Medicaid programs, insurance plans and doctors and pharmacists trying to help poor or elderly patients who can't afford their medicine.

The practice is recommended for medications that are scored in the middle for easy splitting and wouldn't adversely affect a patient if they don't get an exact dose.

Michael A. Mone, the pharmacy board's executive director, in a June 4 letter, notified Health Services Secretary Marcia Morgan that pill-splitting is "unnecessary and potentially confusing to the patient." Morgan would make the final decision on whether to enact the proposal.

Mone said the board opposes pill-splitting unless the dose of a particular drug is not otherwise available.

He said the board will advise pharmacists they could be found to be engaging in "unprofessional conduct" if they split pills for Medicaid.

He acknowledged that some pharmacists already split pills, but said that's acceptable if it's at the request of the patient.

Because of the pharmacy board's opposition, the state has deferred action on the plan to split some anti-depressant drugs, a move that could save an estimated $6.6 million a year from the cash-strapped Medicaid program. Pharmacists would be paid 15 cents for each pill they split.

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