Specialty Pharmacy: Don't miss the boat

January 14, 2008
Leah E. Perry
Leah E. Perry

Leah E. Perry is a healthcare writer based in the Atlanta area.

Some believe it's not too late for community pharmacies to get into this field, which is growing by leaps and bounds.

These predictions were made by Accredo Health Group VP of Health Outcomes Solutions Richard Faris, Ph.D., R.Ph., in August at the National Association of Chain Drug Stores Pharmacy and Technology conference in Boston. Accredo is a specialty pharmacy services provider based in Memphis. Faris' comments and similar market forecasts have been the catalyst for community pharmacies to start reaching beyond their comfortable borders to grab a share of the growing specialty pharmacy market.

More and more, community pharmacies are facing either joining a specialty pharmacy network or being shut out of access to many drugs considered specialty meds with restricted distribution. Bruce Roberts, R.Ph., executive VP and CEO of the National Community Pharmacists Association in Alexandria, Va., for one, is not pleased about the present state of specialty pharmacy as it relates to community pharmacists.

Specialty players started out of the independent marketplace, Roberts continued. "Independents saw this as an opportunity to address the needs of specialty drugs, which are centered around clinical issues, billing issues, and the ability to gather outcomes information with regard to the use of these drugs. The independents did a great job managing these drugs and building these companies, but were eventually bought out by regional companies and then inevitably by the PBMs.

Dennis Burton, VP of specialty pharmacy services at SpecialtyScripts Pharmacy, Fall River, Mass., also believes PBMs are funneling much of the specialty pharmacy business to their own operations. He lists six dominant PBM-controlled specialty pharmacies: Aetna, Cigna, Anthem's PrecisionRx, Medco, Express Scripts, and Caremark.