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URI College of Pharmacy, Dept. of Corrections team up to save nearly $5 million in drug costs at state prisons

KINGSTON, R.I. – October 26, 2006 – The University of Rhode Island’s College of Pharmacy plays a pivotal role in reducing the state Department of Corrections pharmacy costs, saving nearly $5 million during the last four years.

The College’s Health Care Utilization Management Center works with the department’s medical staff to manage the medications for the prison system whose daily population averages 3,700, while its intake center processes 17,000 individuals per year. The department’s projected medication budget from 2003 through 2006 totaled $13.7 million, but its actual costs, thanks to efforts of the medical team led by URI’s management, were $8.8 million for the same period.

URI’s pharmacy college was awarded a three-year, $454,000 contract to oversee the department’s pharmacy program in 2002 following a competitive bidding process. In the spring of 2006, corrections awarded URI a four-year, $875,000 contract to continue its oversight. URI experts also oversee the state’s contract with Contract Pharmacy Services of Hatboro, Pa., which provides the actual medications.

“The savings for our department is obviously the number one benefit of the program,” said Joseph Marocco, associate director of health care services for the Department of Corrections. “For URI, it exposes pharmacy faculty and students to patients with multiple diagnoses, and it provides us with experts who observe what we are prescribing, the cost factors, and the quantities. The University is our pharmacy manager, and it provides us with everything we need--graphs, charts, information on drug interactions, utilization reports and data.”

E. Paul Larrat, associate pharmacy dean and Rita Marcoux, assistant professor of pharmacy and director of the College’s Health Care Utilization Management Center, oversee the program.

Two URI pharmacy alumni, Larry Myerson and Chloe Mako, are part of the management team. Myerson visits the correctional facilities a couple of times each week to discuss dispensing and operational issues at each of the seven facilities and Mako serves as consultant to the medical staff.

“We assist the Department of Corrections’ medical staff in ensuring that the program is receiving quality services at the best price,” Larrat said. “The program benefits URI students, taxpayers and inmates.

“We spend a great deal of our time working with the doctors and nurse practitioners to manage patients with the most cost effective medication treatment,” Larrat said. “It can be as simple as switching from a brand name medication to a generic drug.”

That’s important because of the prevalence of Human Immunodeficiency Virus, the virus that causes AIDS, hepatitis C and mental illness at correctional facilities. “All three require expensive, complicated treatments,” Larrat said.

Students review data and participate in studies that improve patient care and medication management. Students who volunteer to go to the facilities participate in medical meetings and behavioral health meetings.

“The Health Care Utilization Management Center is part of a hard working team of medical professionals working to ensure quality of care is delivered to patients serviced by the Department of Corrections,” Assistant Professor Marcoux said. “Whenever the management center’s staff visits a facility, the inmates are always respectful and the corrections officers are always willing to help in any way”

Corrections Associate Director of Health Care Services Marocco said the entire project benefits URI and the corrections operations. “We now call these kinds of arrangements with other outside groups the ‘URI model’ because of its success.”

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