Duke University Hospital's associate chief pharmacy officer: I never imagined the cost of a single treatment could exceed $1M

Kuldip Patel, PharmD, is the associate chief pharmacy officer of central pharmacy services at Durham, N.C.-based Duke University Hospital.

He recently spoke with Becker's Hospital Review about the key legislation pharmacy leaders should keep an eye on, how Duke University Hospital is improving medication accessibility and some changes to the industry he never saw coming.

Here's what he had to say:

Editor's Note: Responses were lightly edited for length and clarity.

Question: What drug pricing reforms should pharmacy leaders pay attention to and why?

Dr. Kuldip Patel: Pharmacy leaders should pay attention to the FAIR Drug Pricing Act of 2019, CREATES Act of 2019 and the REMEDY Act of 2019 as they are three of several legislations created to make drugs more affordable. Requiring manufacturers to justify dramatic price hikes in drugs, eliminating the "pay for delay" tactics used by manufacturers to extend patent exclusivity and enabling generic competition are various strategies incorporated in these legislations.

Q: How is your organization improving medication accessibility for patients?

KP: We are in the process of building several retail access points for patients who are discharged from our inpatient and outpatient facilities. In addition, Duke Pharmacy also helps facilitate discharge of patients on infusion therapies who are unable to afford the medications by sponsoring the costs. Similar to many other progressive organizations, we have a well-established meds-to-beds program that helps coordinate the delivery of home medications to patients before they are discharged from the hospital.

Q: What major changes in pharmacy have you seen in recent years that you would have never expected when you started in the industry?

KP: Hospitals and health systems partnering to enter the arena of drug manufacturing was not something that I would have ever expected when I started my career. Additionally, I never would have imagined early in my career that cost of a treatment regimen to treat a single patient could exceed $1 million.

A positive and favorable trend that I have noticed recently is the significant expansion in the role of pharmacists and technicians, especially in the arena of population health management and ambulatory care. Systematization and standardization of large health systems to coordinate clinical care and pharmacy services were aspirations when I started my career. Hospital pharmacy leaders are now playing a key role in bringing these aspirations to fruition.

Q: If you could pass along a piece of advice to another hospital pharmacy leader, what would it be?

KP: Lead with empathy, compassion and intent to make a positive difference in the lives of your patients, healthcare partners and teams. The need for collaborative leadership at all levels of hierarchy has never been more vital than now to enable the success of healthcare leaders and the organizations they work for.

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