For those in the American health industry, the summer of 2017 will long be remembered as one of uncertainty. While the future of the Affordable Care Act, and the American health care system in general, is continuously debated in Washington, individual states struggle to cope with the rising opioid epidemic, limited budgets, and an aging population. Even recent changes in cannabis legislation has caused problems for individual states that couldn’t keep up with demand.
While the CDC’s recently released 40th Annual Report on the Health of the Nation includes much to celebrate, it also highlights several specific issues that pose particular concern, and opportunity, for pharmacists in 2017.
It is no secret that health care costs in the United States are rising. According the report national spending on health care stood at 17.8% of the GDP in 2015, compared to 7.9% in 1975. However, the way in which these costs have changed may come as more of a shock. While overall spending has risen across the board, the relative proportion of national health care expenditures has shrunk or remained stable in every category but one: prescription drugs. Prescription drugs accounted for over $324 billion in national health expenditures in 2015, a 9% increase over the previous year.
This means that even as hospital use and visits to a primary care providers have declined, reliance on pharmacists is greater than ever. Americans now take prescription drugs more often and are more likely to be on a variety of medications at the same time. To illustrate the point, in 2013-2014, 42% of adults 65 and over reported taking five or more prescription drugs in the last thirty days.
Pharmacists are the front-line when it comes to addressing some of the largest concerns addressed in the recent CDC report. As community health centers close and the average length of hospital stays decrease, pharmacists are increasingly responsible for identifying adverse drug interactions and flagging addiction and abuse.