CVS recently (and some would say abruptly) canceled its SimpleDose program, a pouch packaging service designed to help patients on multiple medications to better manage their adherence.
The mail-order program, which provided patients with pre-sorted, pre-labeled pill packets for their prescriptions, was launched in 2017 and had over 2 million members at its peak.
SimpleDose pouch packaging (image from the CVS SimpleDose page)
In a statement, CVS said that the decision to discontinue SimpleDose was "not an easy one." CVS cited a number of reasons for ending the program, including declining enrollment, rising costs, and the need to focus on other areas of its business. CVS also encouraged SimpleDose customers to opt-in to its ReadyFill® program, which ensures patients’ prescriptions are automatically filled and ready for pick up. ScriptSync® is another CVS service that ensures multiple prescriptions are scheduled so they can be picked up at one time to minimize trips to the pharmacy.
“We are continuously evaluating our health services strategy to ensure we’re offering our patients what they need, when they need it,” the company said in a statement. “This includes finding the best ways to support our pharmacy patients within our overall healthcare strategy.”
Whatever the reason for CVS “dropping the ball” on adherence packaging, independent pharmacies are in a unique opportunity to step in and serve their local communities, according to the National Community Pharmacists Association (NCPA).
“With CVS Pharmacy ending its multidose packaging program, patients in your area may be looking for a replacement,” NCPA wrote to its members, in response to the CVS announcement. “Do you offer this service? Consider ramping up your promotions and contacting local news outlets to let them know that your pharmacy is continuing to serve in this way.”
“If you provide strip or multi-dose packaging, you were just handed a golden egg from CVS and an easy pharmacy marketing strategy...I have heard from many pharmacies that they are already getting calls from patients that are desperately trying to find a new pharmacy.”
Nearly 80 percent of independent pharmacies offer compliance packaging, according to the 2022 NCPA Digest, making this a potential opportunity for many community pharmacies.
The organization created a sample press release and other materials to help pharmacies promote their adherence packaging services at https://ncpa.org/adherence. RxSafe also offers a proven pharmacy marketing methodology for pouch packaging through its Business Transformation program.
Some patients and healthcare advocates have criticized CVS for ending SimpleDose, saying that the move will make it more difficult for people to manage their medications. CVS said that it is committed to helping patients manage their medications and that it will work with SimpleDose members to transfer their prescriptions to other pharmacies.
However, several pharmacists have since posted on social media disputing that claim.
“When you call for prescription transfers, the agent says, ‘Oh, our records indicate the patient hasn't opted out yet, so the patient will have to call us before we can transfer the records.’ Clearly this is so they can offer the patients service from a local CVS. Be prepared for the obstruction,” wrote one pharmacy owner on LinkedIn.
Still, others encouraged independent pharmacists to step up to the challenge.
“If you provide strip or multi-dose packaging, you were just handed a golden egg from CVS and an easy pharmacy marketing strategy,” said Lisa Faast, PharmD and CEO of DiversifyRx. “I have heard from many pharmacies that they are already getting calls from patients that are desperately trying to find a new pharmacy.”
Faast recommended several ways to capitalize on the opportunity, including local news outreach, social media posts and doctor visits, as well as leveraging existing patients and employees to get the word out.
If your pharmacy offers compliance packaging, be sure to let prospective patients know that it is one of the best ways to help them stay on track with their medications. Not only is packaging convenient, it eliminates confusion and adds safety and peace of mind, especially for elderly patients.
If your pharmacy does not yet offer adherence packaging — or if you’d like to accelerate the adoption of compliance packaging for new and existing patients — contact RxSafe’s Business Transformation Department at 833-791-1772. Or, visit our pharmacy automation pages to learn more about our process and technology. Want to see a demo of the RapidPakRx? Contact a pharmacy automation expert today.