CIGNA: Sullivan employees filling prescriptions at 'alarming' rate

J. H. Osborne • Mar 30, 2007 at 12:18 PM

BLOUNTVILLE - Employees of Sullivan County, and their family members covered under the county's health insurance plan, are filling prescriptions at an "alarming" rate for a group their size, a CIGNA insurance company representative said Thursday.

About 1,600 people are covered by the plan through CIGNA, Sullivan County Commissioner Sam Jones said. He is chairman of the Sullivan County Commission's Insurance Committee.

According to a report given to the committee on Thursday, 75.5 percent of those enrolled in the county employee insurance plan filled at least one prescription during the seven-month period of July 1, 2006, through Jan. 31 this year.

The most-prescribed type of drug was pain medication at 957 prescriptions filled, followed by acid-reflux medications at 722 prescriptions filled, and cholesterol-lowering medications at 606 prescriptions filled.

In all, 12,590 prescriptions were filled by the group during that period, according to the report - which included the following:

•The insurance plan paid a total of $853,699 for the prescriptions, while employee co-pays totaled $198,370.

•Nearly 7,600 of the prescriptions were filled with generic drugs - an "outstanding" utilization rate.

•When ranked by cost to the insurance plan, the top three types of prescriptions filled were: acid-reflux medications ($97,827 worth); cholesterol-lowering medications ($75,722 worth); and pain medications ($47,566 worth).

•In addition to the pain medications, two different classes of antidepressants were among the top 10, as ranked by cost to the plan - with one of them coming in fifth among the most-prescribed types of medication during the period, at 428 prescriptions filled.

•The most expensive prescriptions filled were three for antineoplastic systemic enzyme inhibitors - which committee members said they think is used in treatment of heart attacks - at $4,561 per prescription.

•Nearly 64 percent of the prescriptions filled were new, while about 36 percent were refills.

•Female enrollees in the plan accounted for 53.6 percent of total prescriptions filled and 51.2 percent of total payments by the plan - with an average of 10.5 prescriptions and an average payment of $680.

•Male enrollees in the plan accounted for 46.4 percent of total prescriptions filled and 48.8 percent of total payments by the plan - with an average of 10.3 prescriptions and an average payment of $738.

The report highlights the need to pursue wellness programs and increase awareness of health education opportunities already available to county employees through CIGNA and the Sullivan County Regional Health Department, Jones and others said.

The county is hosting an "Appreciate Your Health" event for county employees, retirees and their families May 5 at Bristol Motor Speedway.

"We wanted to do something to not only recognize our employees for being good employees ... but also there are a lot of issue concerning health care, and we want to do something to raise awareness of those issues and help make employees aware of the programs and services already available that could benefit them," Jones said.

The event is scheduled to include an employee "health" treasure hunt - with a grand prize of four tickets to the NASCAR Nextel Cup race at BMS in August.

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