Specialty Pharmacies: Help for Chronic Care Patients

syringe-and-vialPatients with chronic diseases require a high level of care to manage their conditions. They may undergo regular injections or infusion therapies that require careful compliance, or they may need help filling out paperwork for Medicare reimbursement. Specialty drugs, or drugs to treat complex conditions, are expensive and sometimes difficult to obtain.

With advances in medical care and drug development allowing those with acute conditions to live longer, it is expected that there will be a greater need for specialty pharmacies to help these patients manage their health. Specialty pharmacies provide support services for patients with long-term diseases that require complex, high-maintenance care. Some of the conditions they specialize in include cancer, bleeding disorders, HIV/AIDS, hepatitis C, Crohn’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, growth hormone deficiency, osteoporosis and Parkinson’s Disease. Specialty pharmacies can get expensive medications at lower prices, procure medical equipment, assist patients with insurance paperwork, and educate patients on the correct administration of specialty drugs.

Patient education can also help ensure that patients are complying with their treatment regimens. Some therapies can have undesirable side effects, or they may be challenging to self-administer. Skipping a dose can mean extending the treatment period, and noncompliance can result in health complications. By encouraging compliance, specialty pharmacies can play a role in controlling healthcare costs for both patients and payers.

According to a 2008 article in Biotechnology Healthcare, spending on specialty drugs is increasing more than 10 percent annually. At the current rate, specialty pharmacy expenditures are expected to exceed $1 trillion per year by 2030. Some companies offering specialty pharmacy services include BioScrip, MP Total Care, Grifols, Express Scripts and CVS Caremark (which recently announced positive results from a survey of its specialty pharmacy patients).

We’d like to hear your take on specialty pharmacies. With healthcare reform and an aging population, how do you see the role of the specialty pharmacy evolving the U.S. over the next few years?

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