Independents launch first community specialty pharmacy network

June 4, 2007

As the largest community specialty network in the country, Community Specialty Pharmacy Network is designed to provide a distrbution channel for specialty medications.

As the largest community specialty network in the country, CSPN, launched in February, is designed to provide a distribution channel for specialty medications to better meet the needs of a growing healthcare consumer base. This base is made up of patients who, according to founding CSPN members, have been driven away from their community pharmacies to mail order because of the lack of availability of certain, highly specialized medications locally.

"Our framework will be made up of network stores across the country that are accredited by one organization, specializing in specific disease states," explained Nick Karalis, R.Ph., of Elwyn Pharmacy in Media, Pa., who serves as the group's VP. To further enhance CSPN's initiatives, network members will use a Web-based software system to uniformly collect and report data.

The GPO partnership, still in negotiations, will help the group establish a special class of trade for the network and "provide more than a traditional retail pharmacy establishment," noted Karalis. "We will collect and customize the data, provide extra training for our pharmacist members, and perform refill reminders."

Data collected by the Web-based software tools include information on side effects, disease progression, demographics, utilization, and compliance that will be used by manufacturers and payers. Initially, the group will focus on seven disease states: infertility, HIV, hepatitis, oncology, arthritis, anemia, and psoriasis.

Ed Dillon, R.Ph., CEO/president of CSPN, said the need for such a network at this time was obvious. In discussions with community pharmacists in his own area, "we found that there were stores doing tremendous volumes in specialty meds based on their own efforts," said Dillon, now retired after selling his Washington, D.C.-based pharmacy in February 2006. "My store was the largest HIV and pain management provider in the District of Columbia and the second-largest hepatitis C provider."

Another founding member, Frank Odeh, R.Ph., owner of Prosperity Specialty Pharmacy in Fairfax, Va., has one of the largest fertility pharmacies on the East Coast. "We're very successful despite everything against us because we could focus on not just the disease state, but the patients, physicians, and other practitioners who worked around it," he explained. "We also had support from manufacturers, but we had no national network."

As a result, although many independent-based specialty pharmacies expanded over the years, without a national network, they were either eventually sold or dissolved due to such industry initiatives as lockout contracts. Regardless, "we knew individual stores in this business could do a job superior to anybody else," said Dillon. "Not only will we be as good as some of these national players, we will be far better because we're going to know the physicians and the patients and we're going to be right there to hold their hands."

The group has also hired a consulting firm to market the network to payers and managed care organizations (MCOs). "We are excited to be partnering with CSPN," said Jim Kearns, president of CrossFire Technologies, East Stroudsburg, Pa. "The payer industry has always focused on affordable, quality care, and that will continue as [payers] begin to look more closely for solutions in the specialty pharmacy arena."