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Americans spent $330 billion on medications in 2013, according to the IMS Institute for Health Informatics. Sound like a lot? Consider this: Nearly half of the money spent on meds every year is unnecessary due to overprescribing by physicians or overpaying by consumers. So says Carm Huntress, CEO of RxRevu, a two-year-old Denver business that’s leveraging technology and big data to reduce prescription spending. “Medications are the gateways to health,” Huntress says. “Yet about 33 percent of insured Americans are having affordability issues with prescriptions.”
It all started in 2007 when Dr. Kevin O’Brien, a Denver asthma doc, noticed an uptick in the number of his patients who couldn’t afford meds. Years of research on lowering prescription costs ensued, and RxRevu was born in January 2013. The company, which is based out of Galvanize in the Golden Triangle, crafted what Huntress calls a “prescription optimization” approach based on 12 cost-saving strategies—including generic meds, splitting combination drugs into parts, therapeutic alternatives, and dividing high-price, high-dose pills into smaller, cheaper quantities—that increase transparency for consumers while maintaining medicine efficacy. These tactics are derived from a regularly updated database of 6,500 meds and peer-reviewed clinical studies, all overseen by a team of pharmacists and physicians.
Consumers can access the information several ways: through insurance providers or health technology companies (like wellness engagement platform Yingo Yango) that license the data to develop apps, or directly on RxRevu’s website (rxrevu.com) for free. When the patient enters her prescription and dosage online, an algorithm scans the database to identify more economical options. For instance, 120 milligrams of blood-pressure medication Cardizem costs $152, while the generic version, at the same dosage, costs just $4. The patient can then bring the resulting Medication Savings Report with her to her next appointment with the prescribing physician for a discussion—and, maybe, a new script. The average savings can range from $500 to $3,000 per prescription, per year, according to Huntress.
The idea is gaining traction. Last January, RxRevu, which has fund-raised $1 million to date, was accepted into the StartUp Health Academy, a development program for health and wellness companies. Huntress predicts RxRevu’s database will reach more than seven million people by the end of the year. Local physicians seem to be in support; since they often don’t look at patients’ insurance plans before writing scripts, having a patient come to them with a possible money-saving option is, according to some, a no-brainer—so long as their staffs aren’t fielding hundreds of calls as a result. Says Huntress, “We have to wake up and understand it’s unsustainable for most patients to afford the rising cost of medications.”