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Independents seek access to lucrative specialty Rx market
LAS VEGAS — Specialty pharmacy is the fastest-growing area of the pharmaceutical industry, according to IMS Health. Driven largely by new brand growth, specialty pharmacy spending in the retail channel was up 32.7% to a moving annual total of $67.5 billion through June 2015, with 49.8 million prescriptions dispensed. According to IMS Health, specialty medications accounted for 33% of the drug spend in 2014, up from 23% in 2009, making specialty pharmacy more appealing to community pharmacy.
Whether its pharmacogenomics, orphan drug therapies or the recent launch of the first U.S. biosimilar, specialty pharmacy is where a lot of the action is happening in the pharmacy industry. And though community pharmacy has the potential to be a source for these complex and expensive medications, independents can face an access barrier created by manufacturers — one that AmerisourceBergen is looking to eliminate for Good Neighbor Pharmacy members.
“A number of manufacturers and a number of payers have looked at initiatives to limit and restrict access to [specialty] products to a limited number of providers, often mail-order pharmacies for example,” Peyton Howell, AmerisourceBergen’s Executive Vice President and President of Global Sourcing and Manufacturer Relations, told Drug Store News. “Our team is working directly with manufacturers to really be able to explain the value of keeping that patient where they get the rest of their care [and] get the rest of their prescriptions.”
The importance of community pharmacy’s ability to improve outcomes among patients requiring specialty drugs is not lost on AmerisourceBergen or Good Neighbor Pharmacy — especially when it comes to community pharmacy’s ability to improve adherence and, by extension, patient outcomes.
One of the largest drivers within specialty pharmacy is Hepatitis C treatments. Spending on specialty hepatitis C treatments contributed more than 3% of the spending growth seen in second quarter 2015 — primarily due to new medications like Harvoni and Sovaldi.
“The reality is that on the Hepatitis C products, which are available in the community pharmacy, patients are able to access care, be adherent to a regimen… and be able to get the rest of their prescriptions uninterrupted,” Howell said. “For Good Neighbor Pharmacy members in general, we think it's important that they have access to serve their entire patient population. … We want to make sure that care can be delivered in the community where the patients get the rest of their care.”