I became a pharmacist, nearly a decade ago, for a simple reason: the ability to make an impact and help people live healthier lives.
As a pharmacy manager at CVS Specialty Pharmacy working in Chandler, I am one of over 12,500 people working for CVS Health in Arizona. I have the privilege of serving my community and helping people with rare or chronic conditions get access to specialty medications and care when and where they need it. Conditions like cancer, autoimmune diseases, or asthma require specialty medications, which are dispensed at the CVS Health pharmacies I oversee across Arizona. In serving Arizonans with these types of conditions, I make sure our pharmacists are with our patients at every step of their health care journey, constantly evaluating and understanding our patients’ needs, and ensuring they receive effective, personalized treatment. My team and I strive to deliver the highest levels of care, while upholding rigorous safety standards for these complex treatments and specialty medications.
Keeping patients safe was especially important during the Covid pandemic. In early 2021, I was asked to lead the vaccine rollout for the CVS Health pharmacies across the West Coast, which meant being on the frontlines administering, and training and educating my fellow pharmacists to safely administer Covid vaccinations. CVS Health is proud to have administered more than one million Covid vaccines in Arizona. It is experiences like this where I realize just how critical, and unmatched, my work as a pharmacist is.
With the limits of in-person engagement that have come with Covid and many patients opting to receive care in the comfort of their home, my team and I regularly contact patients virtually to ensure the therapies they are receiving are effective. While access to these medications can be life-changing for our patients, their high list prices remain a burden for working families in Arizona. In 2020, specialty medications accounted for more than half of all prescription drug spending. Affordable prescription drugs are a hallmark of good health, but only when they are accessible and available.
CVS Caremark, the pharmacy benefit manager (PBM) of CVS Health, has made important gains in the fight for prescription drug affordability. We represent, and proudly serve, Arizona’s employers, unions, health plans, and public programs by negotiating with big drug companies to save money for families. In 2021, CVS Health held prescription drug cost growth to just 2.4 percent, and about one-third of our clients saw lower drug costs overall than in the prior year, even as big drug companies raised prices faster than the rate of inflation. These savings are possible because of our role as patient advocates, working to lower the cost of prescription drugs.
Regrettably, Arizona legislators have supported proposals that would increase prescription drug costs for Arizona patients and employers. Specifically, these policies would force Arizonans to pay more for their specialty medications and those medications received through home delivery. This legislation would also ban health plans from offering many affordable coverage options.
This is the wrong prescription for Arizona – lawmakers need to stand up for the patients they represent and serve and reject these misguided proposals.
As working families and businesses across Arizona already struggle with record inflation and the ongoing economic recovery, it is more important than ever that lawmakers protect patients from higher drug costs. These types of legislative proposals would be devastating to the patients my team and I serve every day. As our representatives continue to evaluate proposals for addressing prescription drug pricing, I hope they keep in mind the valuable role PBMs play in ensuring businesses across our state can offer their employees access to high-quality, affordable health care.
Alec Daily is a Pharmacist Manager – Clinical Operations, CVS Specialty, for CVS Health based in Chandler,.