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Department of Communications/
News Bureau
22 Davis Hall, 10 Lippitt Road, Kingston, RI 0288
Phone: 401-874-2116 Fax: 401-874-7872

Two-year-old program in URI's College of Pharmacy generating healthy demand from students, firms
Enrollment, research funding growing

KINGSTON, R.I. -- June 23, 2000 -- It's only a few years old, but already the University of Rhode Island's program in Pharmacoepidemiology and Pharmacoeconomics has attracted $2 million in research funding.

"In the last two years, we've attracted funding from pharmaceutical companies, pharmacy benefit companies, health maintenance organizations and retail firms," said E. Paul Larrat, director of the program.

Major companies are paying attention. Larrat said URI has developed relationships with Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Rhode Island, CVS, Quality Metric, and Keystone Mercy Health Plan.

URI is also doing work with Internet pharmacy companies as well.

Students enrolled in the programs are conducting research under the guidance of Larrat and other URI pharmacy faculty. "For example, we help managed care companies set up policies to make decisions on how to use certain drugs, and what works best within certain health conditions," Larrat said.

"It's a unique way to teach students," Larrat said. "It's starting up a virtual pharmacy benefit management center through the Internet. We have actual contracts with managed care companies."

Larrat said the goal is to make sure patients get the right care, so that managed care firms don't wind up paying for poor or inappropriate treatments that result in unnecessary drug costs or hospital admissions.

Research topics at URI include: inappropriate prescribing for the elderly, internet health companies, benefit design, pharmacy network management, claims processing with major companies, mail service pharmacies, formulary management, drug use review, disease state management, pharmacy marketing, health care legal issues, alternative medicine, the impact of direct-to-consumer advertising, medication compliance, HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, and outcomes measurement.

The program has initiated several projects, including a comprehensive, web-based pharmacy benefit resource and an antipsychotic guideline program. "The projects could have an impact on the health care of millions of people," Larrat said.

Larrat said the program evolved, in part, from a College of Pharmacy survey among its alumni, friends and corporations to determine what skills and strengths pharmacy graduates should possess when they leave URI. "It came through loud and clear that graduates need more managed care instruction and more management experience," Larrat said.

The curriculum is based upon principles, knowledge and research from the disciplines of pharmacoeconomics and pharmacoepidemiology, which focus on large groups and how prescribing patterns can be changed to effect higher quality care at medically appropriate costs.

"Managed care specialists might be looking at data from a million or more prescriptions in their research," Larrat said.

Jerry Brehany, a new member of the URI pharmacy faculty who is a pharmacist and an attorney, said major health corporations want to know if the generalists, such as internists, family doctors and pediatricians, are making the right prescribing decisions.

The companies are all very interested," Brehany said. "It's real-life applied research. It's not esoteric.

"These companies aren't giving away money, and so they only want good science. We all want to learn how best to spend the health care dollar."

Although only four students were enrolled in the program when it was initiated three years ago, it now has 20 students at both the master's and doctoral levels. This spring, two students earned the first Ph.D.s in pharmacoepidemiology and pharmacoeconomics from URI.

Brehany said there is growing interest in putting such curriculum in medical schools. "We're actually very progressive, because a lot of pharmacy schools aren't doing this." Both Larrat and Brehany have discovered that students who earn both the six-year, undergraduate doctor of pharmacy degree and a URI master's degree in business administration will hold powerful credentials. Currently, three graduates of the Pharm. D. program have applied to the one-year, full-time MBA program in Kingston.

In addition to Larrat and Brehany, other faculty members of the Program are Cynthia Willey Temkin, associate professor of pharmacy; Susan Andrade, assistant professor of pharmacy and The Thomas M. Ryan/CVS Chair in Community Pharmacy; Norman A. Campbell, professor of pharmacy; and David Lipson, associate professor of pharmacy.


For Information: E. Paul Larrat 401-874-2789,
Dave Lavallee 401-874-2116



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