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Carbon saving on prisoners' medications

Published July 21. 2011 05:01PM

Carbon County is saving money on inmate medications.

During the monthly meeting of the county prison board on Wednesday, Robert Crampsie, county controller, provided the board with an update on the pharmacy bill at the correctional facility in Nesquehoning.

He explained that since the pharmaceutical policy was put into effect in 2009, the county has seen a savings in medication expenses.

He compared June 2010 and May 2011, because, he noted, the inmate populations and psychotropic prescriptions were close in figures.

In June 2010, the prison had 163 inmates, 43 of those on psychotropic medications, such as Seroquel; and 96 inmates on other types of medications. The total cost for that month for psychotropic medications was $2,162; and the total cost of all medications for that month was $4,261.

In May 2011, the prison had 167 inmates, 43 of those on psychotropic medications; and 62 on other types of medications. The total cost for May for psychotropic medications was $1,405; and the total cost of all medications was $2,911.

Crampsie said that the numbers reflect a monthly savings on psychotropic medications of $757 and a projected annual savings of $9,804.

He added that the overall medication bill decreased 33 percent for a projected annual savings of $16,200.

Crampsie explained that the reason for the savings is because under the pharmaceutical policy, doctors are to prescribe generic versions of psychotropic drugs before name brand versions, which cost a significant amount more. The prison also has a reduced number of inmates who are on prescription medications.

District Attorney Gary Dobias asked why the bill was less for the psychotropic medications even though the same number of inmates are currently taking them.

Crampsie noted that in June 2010, there were still some cases using Seroquel, and now he believes there are fewer.

The county began working on a new pharmaceutical policy in May 2009, after Crampsie reported that the number of Carbon County's inmates on prescription psychotropic drugs is higher than the national average, which is 24 percent. Carbon County's average, at the time was 34 percent, or one in every three inmates housed at the Broad Mountain facility.

During that meeting, Crampsie said benefits to such a policy would include a savings of over $2,000 a month, and that inmates who are released would be more likely to continue to take the generic brand medication because it isn't as expensive as the name brand drug Seroquel.

Board officials met with the prison medical staff and psychiatrist to devise a policy that would be acceptable to both parties. It was agreed upon that under the new policy, doctors would first prescribe generic brand drugs. If the drugs did not work, the inmate would need to go through further testing before being taken off the generic brand and put on the brand name medication.

In the first month after the policy was enacted, the county saved nearly $3,000 for that month.

In 2010, the county saw a savings of nearly $25,000 on its prison's pharmacy costs.

In other matters, the board also discussed the medical service rates.

In December 2010, the board voted to raise the rates to $15 for all doctor and nurse visits, but according to Warden Joseph Gross, some inmates who needed medications were refusing to pay the new doctor fee.

Because of this, the prison backed its rate to the original $5.

The board talked about if any action was taken to go back to the lower rate and none could be determined.

It was decided that the fees would be revisited at next month's meeting.

The board also voted to accept two agreements, which county solicitor Michael Ozalas reviewed and recommended. They include installing a kiosk at the prison where family members can deposit money into an inmate's account; and an updated telephone system. The actions passed and will now be sent to the county commissioners for final approval.

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