The University Health System will test a new prescription drug program called MHealthy: Focus of Medicines in an effort to curb costs for participants as well as the University itself, the University announced yesterday.

Drew Philp
Industrial Workers of the World member Cole Dorsey of Grand Rapids protests in front of the Starbucks on State Street on Saturday. Participants from the Starbucks Workers Union, Industrial Workers of the World and the Michigan Socialist Party called for S

The main component of the pilot program, which will launch next month, will be consultations between participants and pharmacists from the University’s School of Pharmacy. In the consultations the pharmacists, will review medication lists and health records and then offer money-saving and safety tips.

University faculty, staff, retirees and their dependents qualify for the pilot program if they are over 18 and take nine or more prescription drugs.

Those who qualify will be notified in a letter next month, which will include a list of their medications and contact information for a University pharmacist, who will give advice on how to save money on drug costs.

Two major practices that will be promoted are pill-splitting, which entails buying medications in larger doses than prescribed to save money and dividing the pills, and switching to less expensive generic drugs whenever possible.

The University’s prescription drug plan covers about 80,000 people. More than 3,000 people qualify for the pilot program, University Health System Spokeswoman Kara Gavin said.

Nationwide, 4.3 percent of Americans take eight or more medications, according to a University press release.

University Pharmacy Prof. Leslie Shimp said this program is not only going to lower costs; it will also promote the safety of prescription drug users.

By speaking with a pharmacist, individuals will be more aware of possible negative drug interactions of both prescription and over-the-counter medications, she said.

“There were redundancies in the medications I was taking,” Fred Remley, said a retired University staff member, after consulting with University pharmacist in testing the program. “The result was that I felt dopey sometimes.”

By taking less medication, Remley said he saved money and began to feel better.

The pilot program will be evaluated a year after its implementation. At a press conference yesterday, administrators said if the program works well, it would likely expand to a larger population.

Although the program may not see, relevant to students, it may benefit them in the long run.

“There may be things we can learn from this that may possibly influence the way we manage student healthcare,” said Laurita Thomas, the University’s chief human resource officer.

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