Friday, December 20, 2013

Improving Medication Adherence through Walgreens HIV-Specialized Pharmacies

By: Glen Pietrandoni, R.Ph., AAHIVP, senior manager, virology, Walgreens

What would it take for an HIV patient to achieve their best health and an improved quality of life? Could we…perhaps, realize an AIDS-free world? Walgreens studies show some of the ways in which better outcomes can be achieved.

Medication adherence is vital to maintaining optimal health for patients with the HIV virus and could contribute to suppressed viral loads which make the virus less likely to be transmittable. Walgreens HIV-specialized pharmacies are committed to keeping patients adherent and being a part of the solution to end AIDS.

A recent Walgreens study[1]  of more than 15,000 HIV patients showed that those who received care through one of its HIV-specialized pharmacies were significantly more adherent to their medication (74 percent) than those receiving care through a traditional, non-specialized Walgreens pharmacy (69 percent).

In examining the differences in medication adherence for HIV patients with a comorbid condition using Walgreens HIV-specialized pharmacies and those using other Walgreens retail pharmacies[2], researchers confirmed that HIV patients utilizing the specialized pharmacies were more adherent to their anti-retroviral and comorbid therapies.

This includes the nearly 30 percent of patients living with HIV and serious mental illness, a population which often experiences challenges associated with willingness and ability to take medication as prescribed such.  Of the HIV patients with serious mental illness who exclusively used HIV-specialized pharmacies, 33 percent were adherent to their anti-retroviral therapy versus 19 percent for HIV patients with serious mental illness using other Walgreens retail pharmacies.

Patients with other comorbid conditions, including hypertension and high cholesterol, also demonstrate increased adherence when using Walgreens HIV-specialized pharmacies.

So what’s our secret? It’s no secret at all. Since the beginning of the epidemic, more than 30 years ago, our pharmacists have been focused on education, counseling, testing and treatment. In the more than 700 U.S. communities impacted by HIV, our pharmacists have established deep relationships with local patients. Beyond dispensing medication, our HIV-specialized pharmacists are trained to provide confidential wellness consultations, coordinate care and benefits with physicians and insurance providers, and to help patients access financial support programs to reduce medication costs. Above all, medication adherence remains our primary objective because we know that taking the right medication at the right time is key to improving health outcomes.

Walgreens recently announced we’re leveraging the expertise of our pharmacists to collaborate with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and University of North Texas (UNT) College of Pharmacy to develop and evaluate a model of HIV patient-centered care through a national project aimed at advancing clinical integration and medication therapy management.

According to the CDC, only 25 percent of Americans with HIV have the virus under control. Our more than 2,000 HIV-specialized pharmacists can plan an important role in working with patients and providers to help improve the population’s health and help make an AIDS-free world a reality.


1.  Murphy P, Cocohoba J, Tang M, et al. Impact of HIV-specialized pharmacies on adherence and persistence with antiretroviral therapy. AIDS PatientCare and STDs, Volume 26, Number 9, 2012.
 2. Dr Janeen DuChane PhD,Michael Taitel PhD,Leonard Fensterheim MPH,Bobby Clark PhD,John Hou PhD,Julia Zhu MPH,Jenny Jiang MS,Adam Cannon MPH,Glen Pietrandoni RPh
The Lancet - 3 November 2013 ( Vol. 382, Page S3 )
DOI: 10.1016/S0140-6736(13)62251-5