The National Association of Specialty Pharmacy (NASP) hosted its annual meeting from September 14 to 18, 2020, with this year’s event held completely in virtual mode. An organization known for being nimble, NASP recognized early in the process the importance of their annual meeting to specialty pharmacy, and instead of canceling the event, they expanded the format and offered all their strong programs, including an innovative virtual interactive exhibit hall. NASP has a strong focus on policies affecting the national legislative and regulatory landscape of specialty pharmacy, and the annual meeting has become a traditional way for specialty pharmacists and other stakeholders to stay abreast of rapid developments in specialty pharmacy. As always, even with the virtual format, the meeting was highly participative for all attendees, offering many opportunities to interface with peers and leaders in the profession.

What Is NASP All About?
NASP originated following the exponential growth of specialty pharmacy, with a mission to elevate the practice of the specialty field by developing and promoting continuing professional education and certification of specialty pharmacists while advocating for public policies that ensure patients have appropriate access to specialty medications in tandem with critical services. However, their primary focus is the education of the pharmacist practicing in a specialty environment.

NASP is the only national association representing all stakeholders in the specialty pharmacy industry. It provides an online education center offering accredited continuing pharmacy education programs, hosts the annual meeting with education sessions and continuing education credits, and is the only pharmacist organization that offers a certification program for specialty pharmacists.

Who Attended the Virtual NASP Annual Meeting?
Attendees included NASP staff, elected officers, and board members; senior executives, pharmacy directors, staff pharmacists, consultants, and other managementlevel personnel from specialty pharmacy providers; specialty infusion pharmacies; pharma/biotech manufacturers; institutional pharmacies; managed care organizations; group purchasing organizations; distributors; and suppliers to the industry. Given the magnitude and growth of specialty, NASP offered several workshops on the first day of the meeting, focusing on specialty law, specialty home infusion, hospital specialty pharmacy, and technology. Since the inception of NASP, a certification in specialty pharmacy has been established via an examination process. This year even included a prep course for those interested candidates.

Highlights
The NASP annual meeting has become one of the premiere events in the specialty space, and this year’s virtual format allowed it to achieve new programming heights. Every year, the meeting focuses heavily on education, followed closely by networking. However, with the coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic forcing the virtual environment, networking became a significant challenge, but NASP fostered it through the creation of a virtual expo.

As in years past, the virtual exhibit hall was soldout, and participants had a great opportunity to virtually walk the floor and meet with various service providers for face-to-face perspectives. The exhibit hall served as the focal point for all networking. Using an innovative and dynamic concept, NASP created the hall through a highly interactive website. As participants entered the hall, they logged on to the NASP website. The first screen took them to a full layout of all the booths. Just as attendees would walk down an aisle and stop for a conversation during a traditional meeting, participants clicked on a booth, displaying all related materials. Clicking on a banner showed the material visitors were most interested in reviewing and discussing. NASP participants who wanted to interact with those “inside the booth” had a few options. There was a dedicated chat room during the expo hours, when booth exhibitors were available to have a conversation and answer questions as if they were doing so in person. A second option allowed exhibitors and visitors to talk face-to-face through a host of platforms, such as Zoom and Teams. (Over the past 6 months, we have all adjusted to this process.) Lastly, participants had the option of emailing and opening a dialogue. The conference and live events team at MJH Life Sciences™ did a remarkable job of pivoting and creating an innovative environment that was able to keep in place any meeting’s must-have element—the conference expo. One big trade-off, of course, for us pharmacists was that we could not walk away with giveaways from the various booths!

Kickoff and Keynote
The meeting launched with introductions from Carmine DeNardo, RPh, outgoing NASP president; and Sheila Arquette, RPh, NASP president and CEO. They offered their welcome to all in attendance before presenting the NASP year in review and welcoming the new board of directors and student chapter members.

Following their talks were several educational programs interspersed within the exhibit hall. To inspire all attendees, Jim Kelly, famed NFL Hall of Fame member and former Buffalo Bills quarterback, provided his presentation. Kelly is well connected to specialty, having lost his son to a fatal rare orphan disease and himself a cancer survivor. He spoke of his professional and life experiences and touched all of those who were privileged to hear his talk. Kelly took us through his family’s personal journey and experience, and he was kind enough to take many questions from those in attendance as well as spend time with folks in the virtual exhibit hall.

The second day kicked off with awards for students entering the field of specialty pharmacy. Given that NASP is very active in legislative affairs, both nationally and on the state level, it was only appropriate in this election season to bring on 2 of the most renown political pundits on the Washington, DC, scene: Donna L. Brazile and Michael Steele. Brazile is a veteran Democratic political strategist, author, syndicated columnist, vice chair of voter registration and participation at the Democratic National Committee, and former national chair of the Democratic National Committee. Steele is a conservative political commentator, attorney, and former lieutenant governor of Maryland, chairing the Minority Business Enterprise task force in this role. Steele has also served as chairperson of the Republican National Committee, and was the first African American to hold the position. Brazile and Steele provided key insights into the pending elections and, given the outcomes, what specialty pharmacy may expect.

The day was capped off with an industry update from Doug Long on specialty trends.

The last day of keynote speakers featured Allan Lichtman, PhD, whose prediction system, the Keys to the White House, has correctly predicted the outcomes of all US presidential elections since 1984. He is ranked among the 100 most influential geopolitical experts in the world and received the lifetime achievement award from Who’s Who. Lichtman provided his views of the political landscape and what the next 4 years might look like.

Recognition Awards
Four awards were given during this year’s virtual experience. The first, the Specialty Pharmacy of the Year Award, was given to Amber Specialty Pharmacy. The winner of the NASP Distinguished Service Award was Rick Miller, MBA, MSPharm, CSP, vice president of clinical and professional services at AllianceRx Walgreens Prime. Two new awards were also presented at this year’s expo. The first, the Specialty Pharmacy Service Excellence Award, honors an individual who “has demonstrated a sustained commitment to supporting the delivery of high-quality specialty pharmacy service and care.” Adam Winstead, vice president of information technology at Amber Specialty Pharmacy, was the recipient of the inaugural award.

Lastly, the Strategic Partner of the Year Award, which recognizes a nonpharmacy corporation that “has made a substantial contribution to supporting specialty pharmacy over the past year,” went to ParcelShield, a parcel management service that helps specialty pharmacies manage therapies and deliver them to patients.

Educational Sessions
NASP’s focus on education shined this year, with many unique and relevant programs offered to packed virtual rooms. These sessions included as follows:
  • Home Infusion Workshop
  • CSP Exam Prep Course
  • Technology Workshop
  • State of Care 2020: HIV
  • Utilizing Technology for Patient Communication in Specialty
  • Driving Pharmacy Operational Efficiency: Incorporating Real-Time Prescriber Verification Into Workflow & Improving Interoperability
  • Expanding the Technician Role in Specialty
  • A Push for Data Standardization
  • State of Care 2020: Immunoglobulin

With hope, NASP’s annual meeting will be back in full swing next year in Washington, DC. But this year’s event proved that even if we can’t be together in person, specialty stakeholders can still gain many of the same experiences through innovation within a virtual environment.
 
Dan Steiber, RPh, operates Genesis Pharma Consultants, a consulting practice responsible for commercial operations and trade-supply chain strategy development. Steiber has served in several senior positions in pharmacy, distribution, and industry over the course of his 40-year career. Steiber is a licensed pharmacist in Texas, Washington, California, and Pennsylvania. He is affiliated with several professional associations and publications and a frequent speaker on behalf of many professional organizations. Steiber graduated from Washington State University College of Pharmacy. He has participated in a variety of postgraduate programs in law and business development/marketing at Harvard University and Northwestern University.