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INTRODUCTION

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Health professionals are given significant responsibilities in our healthcare system. These roles may be taken for granted by patients until a pharmacist, nurse practitioner, physician assistant, physician, or others perform assigned tasks that make a major impact on the lives of patients and patients' families in countless ways. The exemplary manner in which health professionals provide necessary care to patients is a hallmark of health professional practice and delivery of healthcare in the United States. Patients are thus well served, and fellow health professionals share knowledge and expertise specific to their profession. Despite this, many problems remain in the U.S. healthcare system; there were close to 50 million uninsured individuals in the United States in 2010, representing between 16% and 17% of the population.1 This dramatic number of 50 million is but 10 million less than the entire population of either France or the United Kingdom. It is simply staggering in scope and has implications for the future collective health of the U.S. population. These figures are basically unchanged from the year 2009, except for the number of uninsured.

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Countless other Americans are underinsured. They may have partial coverage, but for these Americans the high price of deductibles, copays, and monthly payments for insurance create an economic dilemma each time they seek care or pay premiums. According to the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, National Health Expenditure data, well over $2.71 trillion was spent on healthcare in the United States during 2010, amounting to $8,327 per person, which amounts to 17% of the U.S. gross domestic product (GDP), some of it no doubt unnecessarily so.1 By 2020, expenditures are projected to $4.64 trillion, which would be a projected $13,709 per person, 19% of the U.S. GDP. It is anticipated that with the enhanced focus on quality of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, passed in 2009, that unnecessary expenditures and duplicative healthcare service may be reduced and lower the misspent money in parts of the health expenditures in the United States.

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The use of medications in the healthcare system provides enormous help to many; lives are saved or enhanced, and lifespans are lengthened. Many other uses of medications lead to significant side effects, worsening states of health, and premature deaths. So how can we separate these disparate pictures of drug use outcomes? You, within your practices and within your healthcare workplace networks, can help to promote the former and diminish the latter. The authors of the chapters in this book have written informative, current, and superb chapters that can empower you to positively influence medication use.

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DRUG USE IN THE HEALTHCARE SYSTEM

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Spending on drugs, as a percentage of total healthcare, increased 5.3% in 2009 compared with the previous year.2 Drivers for this significant increase include increases in available technologies, numbers of patients, prescriptions per patient, and number of seniors taking advantage of ...

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