Ensuring Equitable Access to Therapeutic Advances in Oncology

Jenny Sherak, president of Specialty Physician Services at AmerisourceBergen sat down with Drug Topics® to discuss how her team provides the best customer experiences for community oncology practices across the United States.

Transcript:

My background has predominantly been in pharmaceuticals and biotechnology, specifically in the area oof oncology. I am actually a chemist by trade, and I worked in clinical research, pharmaceutical sales, pharmaceutical marketing—and most recently, global commercialization for oncology products. My position before joining AmerisourceBergen was as head of the oncology pipeline and oncology business development for Takeda Pharmaceuticals. I have well over 25 years’ experience in pharmaceuticals…and in oncology as well.

I am the President of Specialty Physician Services at AmerisourceBergen. What that means is, I am responsible for physician practice distribution and solutions. Specifically, that entails the divisions under me, which includes oncology supply...[and] we have solution groups called Ion, IPN, and Intrinsic. All of these groups together focus on making sure that we are supplying our physician customers with the products they need through our distribution services, and then also helping them to manage their practices through our solution offerings.

We have big goals. My goal for the group is to ensure that we are the preferred partner across all specialty therapeutic areas. That means that we are the preferred partner for physician practices in oncology, gastroenterology, cardiology, neurology—all of the specialty areas.

We have a special focus on ensuring that we're providing the most value to our customers, whether that be the best pricing or the most innovative solutions. Those attributes together allow us to provide the best customer experience.

One thing we value at AmerisourceBergen is a focus on is the customer experience; we like to say that we’re customer obsessed. By continuing to put the customer at the forefront of everything we do, make sure we're providing value to them and listening to their needs, I truly believe that we will become the preferred partner across all specialty areas.

We formed our GPO specifically for our physician practices. Essentially what a GPO provides to these practices is contracted pricing on products. These practices are able to…one, get get access to the latest and greatest therapies, and also get them at a special price. We partner with pharma and biotech companies across the United States to provide a wide variety of products to all of our specialty customers at these contracted prices. The GPO not only provides value in the best prices, but also provides business services for these specialty practices, as well as an educational service.

It’s a large part of the offering that the GPOs provide, making sure that physicians have education—not only on therapies, but on issues going on with government affairs, and anything going on in a given specialty area. Also, as part of our GPO, we have a new technology solution that's going to be launched soon for our customers through an online portal that offers our customers advanced insights into their ordering and their inventory management, it automates processes and enhances their workflow visibility. We're very excited about the new offering that's going to be rolling out later this year.

One of the biggest topics that we've been discussing a lot lately—and you've probably heard it in the news as well—is around health disparities and how we ensure underserved populations have access to the latest therapies and treatment they need to have outcomes like the greater population. The way we really help to influence this is we accelerate access. We're partnering with manufacturers across the nation to make sure we have a portfolio of products that our customers, community, and physicians can access. By having that on hand for our customers, we accelerate their ability to gain this access. We support our practices in making sure they understand reimbursement challenges, how to navigate the reimbursement landscape, and…make sure that they can quickly gain access to these therapies to successfully administer them to their patients.

We also have solutions that I think are important when you're talking about health disparities. [An example] is having the ability to identify clinical trials for these patients as well. A lot of the practices that we work with are in the community; no matter where you are, you may qualify for a clinical study. But a lot of times, there's not that tool to help physicians identify a study that their patient may qualify for. We're working with them to streamline their ability to identify these patients and enroll them into clinical studies. Quicker access, and access to clinical studies, will have a positive impact on improving health outcomes.

It's been an interesting 18 months in the world of specialty therapies, and especially in oncology. We saw patient volumes decrease significantly in our practices; we saw numbers of newly diagnosed patients decrease significantly. I'm happy to say that we're almost returning to pre-pandemic levels that we're seeing in our community oncology practices.

I think what we'll see going forward is more utilization of the tools I've already described. Now that patient volumes are back up, we have solutions that really help physician practices better handle their inventory management. We have the online tools to help them access status reports on workflow, and we'll continue to see greater utility of these solutions to help practices manage their patient volumes.

There's a lot of therapeutic advances that are going to be coming out in the in the coming years. If you've looked at all of the latest data around gene therapy [and] cell therapy, what we will be seeing more and more are these specialized therapies being used across multiple therapeutic areas. They’re already in the space of oncology, and we'll start to see them launching in in many other areas.

One thing we're doing here at AmerisourceBergen is closely monitoring the drug pipeline and anticipating what is that next cell therapy that's going to be coming out, and then partnering early with our manufacturer partners to ensure that we're ready to pull through the distribution when those new advanced products launch. And so, not only are we working with our manufacturers, but also preparing our customer accounts to be able to receive those therapies when they come to market. There are lots of complexities in receiving administering these complicated, very expensive products. We just want to be sure that our community practices are ready to deliver those products.

I think the one message I want to leave with everyone is that AmerisourceBergen, and especially in our specialty physician services division—we are not just a distribution company. We offer solutions that help community practices really succeed. We help them access novel therapies, and accessing novel therapies where they are. It's a passion of ours to ensure that patients, no matter where they're located, have easy access to the right therapies, and they're not having to drive for hours to seek treatment. I think it's critical for everyone to understand that we offer not only excellent distribution, but also business solutions for all our physician practices, and across all different types of specialties.

We are a leader in the world of oncology, we serve as over 4500 oncologists across the United States; that's more than half of the community oncology universe. Our plan is to leverage all of that experience to benefit other specialty practices as we continue to grow.