A plan to require nursing homes to hire independent pharmacists to assess residents’ prescriptions has been put on the back burner by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), reports Bloomberg.
Regulators “decided to further study the issue for future policy considerations,” Jonathan Blum, deputy director of the agency, said in a conference call with reporters late yesterday.
The centers said in October it was considering stricter rules to oversee patients’ drug regimens, an announcement that sent the stocks of nursing home pharmacies, including Omnicare Inc. (OCR) and PharMerica Corp. (PMC), tumbling. Yesterday, the agency said it decided against the policy because it “would be highly disruptive to the industry” without reducing drug utilization.
Nursing home “staff and physicians contribute significantly to the problem” along with pharmacists, the agency said in a filing. While the agency left policy the same for now, it said “changes are necessary and a requirement for consultant pharmacist independence is part of the right approach.”
Federal law requires nursing homes to review their residents’ drug regimens at least once a month. Homes “very often” contract with pharmacies that provide their drugs to also conduct the monthly reviews, sometimes at rates that are “below fair market value,” according to the government.
The relationships can create conflicts-of-interest if the pharmacists are pressured to fill prescriptions residents don’t need or substitute higher-priced drugs, the government said.
Skilled nursing trade group the American Health Care Association has urged the industry to reduce use of off-label anti-psychotics, and the CMS has said nursing homes should voluntarily change the way they medicate residents to reduce “inappropriate prescribing”—or else the government will make changes in regulation, reports Bloomberg.
Written by Alyssa Gerace