Clinical education, strong data analytics, and collaboration are the key aspects in providing patient support and access to specialty pharmaceutical manufacturers, according to a panel session at the National Association of Specialty Pharmacy 2020 Annual Meeting & Expo Virtual Experience.

When asked to elaborate on partnering with specialty pharmaceutical manufacturers, Patti Weber, vice president of client services at ReCept Pharmacy, explained that clinical education is an area that specialty pharmacies excel at.

“They expect us to be very verse on disease state and therapy-specific management,” she said. “We want to get through the process quickly but with the intention of the best outcome.”

Weber said that strong, factual data analytics are vital but that they need to be provided in a timely fashion and in formats that work for the manufacturer. Further into the value and actual data from the specialty pharmacy channel, Jenny Jackson, head of strategy, specialty and strategic markets, at UCB, said actionable data are critical, regardless of where the product is.

“Without actionable data, there is a lack of ability to pivot or course correct as necessary,” she said. Regarding the role of data analytics in the pharmacy benefit manager (PBM) and specialty pharmacy model, as well as in patient management and specialty strategy, Ryan Atkinson, PharmD, MBA, senior director of specialty pharmacy strategy at Maxor National Pharmacy Services, LLC, emphasized the importance of adherence for patients.

“If a patient doesn’t understand their drug or the disease state that they have, adherence is not good,” he said. “Patients will discontinue their therapy because they weren’t expecting a specific outcome or [adverse] effect that could be easily mitigated if they understood their disease state.”

Even if the PBM and specialty pharmacy are independent entities, they are able to work together to collect additional clinical information through algorithms about the patient and any trends on how the patient takes their medication, when it is refilled, and more, Atkinson added.

When asked what a “good” relationship looks like for a manufacturer and a specialty pharmacy channel, Jackson said that setting expectations for a specialty product as well as the entire process is important. “What can happen, should happen, or what we want to happen, along with safety nets for a seamless experience, should be mapped out with all different touch points to see the patient experience,” she said.

Atkinson added that collaboration, feedback, and exchange of important data really take this relationship to the next level. “It all comes down to the patient experience,” he said. “The patient needs a good, positive experience…for them to [adhere to] their medication and to be successful in outcomes with the therapy they are on, which comes from appropriate education and communication.”

Regarding the adaptive measures resulting from coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) that may stay or leave in the future, each panelist was optimistic about telemedicine despite their other doubts.

“Telehealth is a positive, and I hope this area continues,” Jackson said. “However, what is unknown for manufacturers is how we can engage with prescribers in a post–COVID-19 world.”

Atkinson sees more collaborations in the future, with specialty pharmacies playing a larger role in patient education. However, issues surrounding fulfillment, patients’ mental health, and affordability are major concerns.

Finally, Weber said she hopes specialty pharmacies can focus on being prepared to move forward with the positives that may emerge during the COVID-19 pandemic. “I hope we can focus on all the good we can take from a really bad situation,” she concluded. 

  1. Atkinson R, Jackson J, Weber P. What to expect from a specialty pharmacy partner. Presented at: National Association of Specialty Pharmacy 2020 Annual Meeting & Expo Virtual Experience; September 14-18, 2020; virtual.