The National Association of Specialty Pharmacy (NASP) released a formal guidance on the definition of specialty pharmacy and specialty medications to clear up recent confusion as to what truly defines the industry.

In 2015, The New York Times and Wall Street Journal both published articles questioning the relationship between specialty pharmacy and drug manufacturers following Valeant Pharmaceuticals International Inc’s announcement it would purchase Philidor Rx Services.

NASP stated that there is a general misunderstanding regarding what defines a specialty pharmacy, which provides a number of services, including assistance in arranging for payment by private insurance, Medicare, or Medicaid.

“NASP developed these definitions in response to many requests from Capitol Hill members, and staff at federal regulatory agencies,” said President of NASP, Burt Zweigenhaft. “NASP will remain at the forefront of defining our evolving industry.”

NASP is comprised of 84 corporate members and 1500 individual members, which includes leading independent specialty pharmacies, retail specialty pharmacies, and health system specialty pharmacies. 

In response to the growing controversy around specialty drug costs, NASP released a number of guidelines that properly characterize a true specialty pharmacy.

What is a Specialty Pharmacy?

Specialty pharmacies are state-licensed and accredited by independent third parties including URAC, the Accreditation Commission for Health Care, the Center for Pharmacy Practice Accreditation (CPPA), or The Joint Commission.

Specialty pharmacies provide medications for patients with serious health conditions that require complex therapies. These health conditions include cancer, hepatitis C, rheumatoid arthritis, HIV and AIDS, multiple sclerosis, cystic fibrosis, organ transplantation, human growth hormone deficiencies, and bleeding disorders like hemophilia.

Specialty drugs are usually injected by a patient in their home or infused in various treatment settings and may require special handling.

Specialty pharmacy provides services for these patients that include training proper medication use, comprehensive treatment assessment, monitoring, and frequent interaction with caregivers and the or other health care providers.

Expert services offered by specialty pharmacies can improve adherence, while proper medication management for dosing and side effects improve appropriate medication use. The patient-centered model employed by specialty pharmacies provide a comprehensive and coordinated model for the treatment of chronic and complex conditions and illnesses for superior clinical and economic outcomes.

What is a Specialty Drug?

Specialty drugs are more complex compared with other prescription medications for numerous reasons, which include drug storage and handling, proper administration, side effect management, the disease the drug treats, special access conditions required by the manufacturer, prior authorization or financial hardships. These complex medications require intensive patient management.

Specialty pharmacies also provide services for patients that include training on how to use medications, comprehensive treatment assessments, monitoring of patients, and facilitating communication between caregivers and the patient’s physician.