Good Medicine For Doctors And Health Plans

Errors in prescribing medications kill an estimated 7,000 Americans a year. Now, Irving (Tex.)-based Advance Paradigm is showing how the Web can solve the problem. The pharmacy benefit manager offers a service that lets insurers and physicians see directly into its computer records of 165 million prescriptions yearly. Insurers can keep an eye out for doctors who recommend drugs that aren't covered under patients' health plans, while a doctor can check whether patients already are taking medications that could be dangerous if combined with a drug the doctor is prescribing. "The Internet provided a huge opportunity for Advance to build on its strengths," says Adrian J. Slywotzky, vice-president at Mercer Management Consulting.

The system adds up to savings: Advance says insurers using it have trimmed $2.88--or about 8%--from the cost of an average prescription, while doctors save some $14,000 per year by cutting time spent handling prescription problems. Advance benefits too. Revenues grew to $2 billion last year, from $477 million in 1998. Profits nearly tripled, to $21 million. That's certainly been a cure for Advance's stock price: It's up more than 150% in two years.

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