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Fourth Armada Specialty Rx Summit draws 1,000

BY DSN STAFF

LAS VEGAS —The specialty pharmacy market is a lot less fragmented than it was just a few years ago, a fact that is reflected clearly in the rapid growth of the Armada Specialty Pharmacy Summit. Held here last month at the Wynn resort and casino, the Summit drew more than 1,000 attendees from the retail, manufacturer and wholesaler communities. Four years ago, at the group’s inaugural meeting, a little more than 20 people attended.

“That’s a 30-fold increase since our first meeting,” host Lawrence Irene, Armada Health Care CEO, announced to the massive group—more than 40% of which represented providers of all sizes, from independents and small regionals to such titans of pharmacy as Walgreens and CVS.

Behind the interest: A growing market emerging from infancy with myriad opportunities to improve care and health outcomes—and vastly expand the role pharmacy plays in the delivery of health care in America. The challenge: To successfully navigate a sea of operational challenges beyond the inherent complexity of the therapies being delivered. From claims adjudication, to managing formularies, and compliance and adherence, benefit design, every aspect of specialty pharmacy seems “hard,” explained keynote speaker Stan Blaylock, Walgreens SVP and president of the company’s managed care division, Walgreens Health Initiatives.

At a time when even the healthcare services market is not immune to the violent changes in the economy, and overall pharmaceutical growth has slowed to a crawl, specialty pharmacy continues to explode. Standing at about $70 billion to $80 billion today, it is a market expected to top $500 billion in the next 15 to 20 years, Blaylock noted.

Judging from the growth in the pipeline over the past 15 to 20 years, and the high cost of most of these drugs, that estimate could prove too conservative. In 1990, the specialty market included just 10 drugs, with 100 more in development. Ten years later, the number of specialty drugs on the market was almost 100, with 369 more in development. By 2007, the number had reached 300 on the market, and more than 1,500 in development.

The top 10 specialty items—including such drugs as Enbrel, Remicade, Humira and others—generated worldwide sales of nearly $50 billion last year.

In addition to an exploding new product pipeline, Blaylock also pointed to several other key trends that are shaping the specialty market, including:

Higher patient copays, deductibles and co-insurance

Heightened payer focus around intensity of management and overall cost of care

More products requiring professional administration

Pricing pressure on all industry stakeholders

Continued consolidation—both among providers and manufacturers

Convergence of specialty pharmacy and home infusion

Biosimilars

The summit also included a special Managed Care Leadership Panel, offering some perspectives from such big payers as Blue Cross Blue Shield of Minnesota, HealthNet of California and others, on the question of cost versus value in specialty pharmacy therapy management.

In addition to the general sessions, the Summit also featured more than 20 individual breakout sessions, including one on the specialty pharmacy pipeline by CVS Caremark clinical adviser Deborah Cooper. Another by former Rite Aid pharmacy executive Greg Drew—discussed how specialty pharmacy is evolving among the big pharmacy chains.

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Kroger to serve as exclusive supermarket sponsor of Fiesta Atlanta ’09

BY Allison Cerra

ATLANTA Kroger will serve as the exclusive supermarket sponsor of Fiesta Atlanta ’09, an outdoor Cinco de Mayo festival celebrating Latino culture, music and food.

Fiesta Atlanta ’09 takes place on Sunday, May 3 at Centennial Olympic Park in downtown Atlanta. For Kroger, the partnership represents the company’s commitment to the Hispanic community.

“We are very excited and looking forward to Fiesta Atlanta,” said Glynn Jenkins, director of communications and public relations for Kroger’s Atlanta Division. “Kroger has always made exceptional efforts to serve the Hispanic community and joining this celebration is another commitment to our Hispanic customers.”

Atlanta’s largest Hispanic outdoor family festival, Fiesta Atlanta attracted over 40,000 attendees last year. This year’s event will once again feature authentic food from many Latin-American countries, arts and crafts, sponsor displays with many free product samples and continuous live musical performances by national and local recording artists.

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AARP cites big jump in Rx prices

BY DSN STAFF

NEW YORK A report by AARP indicated that prices for branded drugs have increased at a rate outpacing the rate of inflation by more than six percentage points.

 

The report found that manufacturers’ prices for branded drugs increased by 9% last year, compared with the general inflation rate of 3.8%. Meanwhile, prices of generic drugs decreased, on average, by 10.6%.

 

 

Generic drugs have already grown significantly over the years, accounting for 69% of all prescriptions dispensed in the United States, but 16% of money spent on prescriptions, according to IMS Health. In 2007, according to the National Association of Chain Drug Stores, the average price of a generic prescription drug was $34.34, compared to $119.51 for a branded drug.

 

 

Price increases for branded drugs significantly higher than the overall rate of inflation, mixed with the recession, are likely to drive more consumers to generics. According to AARP, nearly a quarter of all older Americans skip medication doses because of the cost, while other studies have shown that many Americans facing economic hardship don’t have prescriptions filled at all.

 

 

At the same time, many branded pharmaceutical drugs – not to mention biologics – don’t yet have a generic version. This could create difficulties for elderly and other patients who may be able switch to medications that are cheaper, but different from what they take, or who take biologic drugs or newer drugs that have no equivalent on the market.

 

 

The Generic Pharmaceutical Association said the report indicated that generic medicines are “the right choice for better health.”

 

 

“During these difficult economic times, it is truly disturbing to hear reports that our nation’s seniors cannot afford their prescription drug costs,” GPhA president and CEO Kathleen Jaeger said in a statement responding to the report. “No one should be forced to choose between putting food on their table and paying for needed medicines.”

 

 

Jaeger also said the report illustrated the need for a regulatory pathway for biosimilars.

 

 

“It’s time to do right by our seniors and all Americans struggling with healthcare costs by approving legislation that brings safe, effective and affordable biogeneric medicines to patients sooner rather than later,” Jaeger said. “GPhA also strongly believes that increasing funding for FDA would ensure the more timely approval of generic medicines, increasing the opportunity for consumers to save immediately.”

 

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