Dedicated Cystic Fibrosis Pharmacist Helps Keep Kids out of the Hospital

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Cystic fibrosis is a complicated lung disorder that affects cells in the body that produce mucous, sweat and digestive fluids. To combat it and stay healthy, patients must keep to a strict medication regimen. Besides the difficulty of sticking to a tight schedule, the required medications are often difficult to find and expensive to buy.

Adhering to a strict regimen, spending hours on the phone with multiple pharmacies for those medications and then spending thousands of dollars to buy them is a challenge for even the most diligent and dedicated parents and patients. Yet, medication adherence is one of the strongest predictors of whether or not a child will be hospitalized from cystic fibrosis.

With all this in mind, the Primary Children’s Cystic Fibrosis Clinic made the decision to bring in their own pharmacist dedicated solely to kids with cystic fibrosis. In 2016, Jeff Zobell, Pharm.D., Advanced Clinical Pharmacist, joined the team. Since then, they have seen improved patient access to treatment, increased medication adherence and reduced hospital stays.

“This is a great example of the future of healthcare with pharmacist partnerships in clinic settings,” says Jared Cash, Primary Children’s Pharmacy Director. “There are so many positive results from this long-term project — including decreased patient admissions and increased parent and patient satisfaction related to medication access.”

Zobell has partnered with the Intermountain Specialty Pharmacy, a group that manages high-cost medications and contracts with pharmaceutical companies, to improve patient access to those medications. The pharmacy teams also work with parents and patients before and during visits to talk about their medication regimens and ensure they get the medications they need in one place at more affordable prices.

To get more affordable prices, Zobell works with families to sign up for copay assistance programs through a national foundation. In doing so, he’s discovered issues that were unnecessarily costing these assistance funds hundreds of thousands of dollars. He and the foundation have worked together to address these issues and consequently have helped not only patients at Primary Children’s, but also many others across the nation.

“Do you have thousands of dollars lying around to pay for these medications? No one does,” Zobell says. “This has all come out just by noticing little things and working in the clinic. We work hard to save this funding assistance because these patients need it. That’s my motivation — to help these patients.”

Hospitalizations are reduced, kids are healthier, and families are savings thousands of dollars and many, many hours of trips to specialty pharmacies because of the combined work of the Cystic Fibrosis Clinic and the Intermountain Specialty Pharmacy.

“Focusing on improving the health of patients in a clinic setting can improve their overall health,” Cash says. “We hope this serves as a model to other clinics of how the pharmacy can support them by helping more kids comply with their medicine schedules.”