Walgreens has designated more than 50 of its specialty pharmacies as cancer-specialized locations, led by pharmacists and pharmacy technicians who have advanced cancer training and expertise.
The pharmacy staff at these locations have completed a cancer-focused curriculum of advanced education courses on colorectal, lung, prostate, and breast cancer, as well as blood cancers such as leukemia, lymphomas, multiple myeloma, myeloproliferative neoplasms, and myelodysplastic syndrome.
“We believe that this is unique for a retail pharmacy chain, given that many traditional retail pharmacies do not carry a lot of oncology products, nor do they have the additional clinical expertise in the cancer space,” Matthew Farber, Walgreens Senior Director for Oncology Disease State Management, told Drug Topics. “At Walgreens, we have the capability to bring these cancer-
specialized services into the community setting as our local specialty pharmacies that exist across the country already have extensive experience working with patients who have cancer.”
The retailer’s cancer-specialized pharmacies help patients access, afford, and stay on their medication while also helping to successfully transition them into survivorship care, according to the Walgreens statement. Pharmacists and technicians collaborate with other health-care providers to help manage any medication side effects, and can assist in finding financial assistance options, if necessary.
“With more and more oral therapies becoming the standard of care for cancer patients, the pharmacist, as an extension of the patient’s care team, now plays an even larger role in the treatment of cancer. We felt it was very important to enable our team members to help these patients and their caregivers,” Farber said.
The clinically-trained oncology pharmacy staff collaborates with patients’ health-care teams to bridge the clinical and communication gaps that can arise with oncology patients. “It is increasingly the case that a pharmacist, either over the phone, in person, or via a mobile or web chat, will have the last conversation with a patient prior to the initiation of their oral therapies. This offers a tremendous opportunity for our cancer-specialized pharmacies to help ensure the success of a patient’s treatment regimen,” Farber said.
As part of the specialized cancer training, Walgreens pharmacists receive 22 hours of Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education-accredited continuing education. Its lead oncology technicians receive 5.5 hours of continuing education, according to Farber.
The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS), along with input from blood cancer experts from academia, developed clinical training courses, resources and certification for Walgreens specialty pharmacists and techs to learn about and implement the latest evidence-based standards and guidelines for blood cancer care.
Blood Cancer 101 and 201 is an educational series providing a basic-to-advanced understanding of blood cancers and treatments. With completion of the 202 course, the pharmacy will earn an LLS certification.
“Currently the LLS training is at Walgreens Specialty Pharmacies only; however, it can be made available to other pharmacies, and LLS would welcome the opportunity to broaden this program to other pharmacies,” Elisa Weiss, PhD, Vice President, Patient Access and Outcomes for the LLS, told Drug Topics.
Walgreens pharmacy staff at the specialized cancer locations have also completed the following areas: breast cancer, prostate and colorectal cancer, and lung cancer.