External Partners + Integrated Services = Added Value, Efficiency for Specialty Drug Manufacturers

Specialty Pharmacy TimesJuly/August 2017
Volume 8
Issue 5

Manufacturers can benefit by partnering with an integrated channel services provider that offers both third-party logistics and hub services.

THE AVERAGE COST OF DEVELOPING a new drug has increased by 34% since 2010, and yet, only approximately 10% of new drugs are successfully launched and commercialized. As the process of bringing new pharmaceutical products to market becomes increasingly complex, so, too, have decisions around distribution, channel strategy, and patient access.

When considering how to get products into the hands of providers and patients in the right place and at the right time, pharmaceutical manufacturers have myriad options—and they face significant pressure to make the right choices.

At the same time, they are making complex channel decisions, manufacturers are focusing on optimizing relationships with external partners and driving value within their organizations. In some cases, they are finding that working with a single partner that can deliver integrated solutions across a broad set of specialized areas can drive enhanced value, increased synergies, stronger patient relationships, and a more effective channel strategy.

3PL and Hub Services

Specialty and orphan drug manufacturers often have a need for third-party logistics (3PL), or direct distribution services, to get their products to the providers who need them with speed and efficiency. Manufacturers may also require support in managing adverse events reporting and pharmacovigilance associated with these products. Many of these products are also expensive, which makes them difficult to access.

Therefore, reimbursement services or patient assistance programs may be required to remove financial barriers. For manufacturers with these needs, there can be a significant benefit to partnering with an integrated channel services provider that offers both 3PL and hub services. Aligning distribution and patient support services with 1 partner can result in more efficient and seamless interactions with customers.

Take as a specific example, a cancer patient who needs an infusion therapy product. A physician can place that order through the partner’s hub services team, which can work directly with the patient to confirm the need for financial aid or other assistance to access therapy.

The hub partner can, in turn, coordinate with its 3PL team to place the order directly with the manufacturer, facilitate the related billing, and track the product through the supply chain all the way to the infusion center, where it can ultimately confirm that the patient received it.

Information about the entire patient experience and related back-end processes then can be provided back to the manufacturer. This integration between hub and 3PL services can tie each of these elements together much more effectively and cost-efficiently for the manufacturer versus using separate entities to facilitate each step.

Specialty Pharmacy and Hub Services

Specialty drug manufacturers frequently engage specialty pharmacies to dispense medicine directly to patients and to handle related patient education. However, specialty pharmacies may not be staffed to manage benefits investigations and appeals processes that are typically required when a patient receives a prescription for a high-cost specialty drug.

Even specialty pharmacies that offer some hub services may not be able to support the full patient journey. Working with a partner that offers an integrated specialty pharmacy and a full-service hub can help accelerate benefits approval processes to get patients on therapy faster.

This coordination of services is especially helpful when a partner’s hub services team can seamlessly pass the benefits investigation findings to its specialty pharmacy to dispense a prescription and provide related patient counseling services. This collaborative approach can also assist in cases when an insurer denies coverage of a product.

The hub services team can handle the entire appeals process with the payer without burdening the patient. Integrating these services can also enable the creation of customized reports that provide manufacturers with deeper insight into the patient experience, provider prescribing behavior, and payer policies. This consolidated reporting can enhance the manufacturer’s view of the entire drug landscape so it can adjust commercialization efforts accordingly.

3PL and Regulatory Consulting

When launching a new product, it’s common for a specialty drug manufacturer to partner with a 3PL provider to handle distribution. But if a company is launching its first product, it may not have the state licenses required to legally distribute the product in all states, which can delay launch timing. A partner that offers both 3PL and regulatory consulting services may be able to accelerate the launch timing by working collaboratively to obtain the state licenses and implement the distribution strategy.

Alignment between distribution and regulatory is important because the state licensing requirements change rapidly. A channel partner that coordinates regulatory consulting expertise with 3PL services can ensure a manufacturer has the right licenses for a product’s launch and can support the product throughout its lifecycle, making certain the licenses are renewed on the appropriate timetables and that evolving licensing mandates are satisfied.

Hub Services and Health Economics and Outcomes Research

Many specialty drug manufacturers have a growing interest in collecting data about how their products are being used in the real world and in developing a deeper understanding of the patient experience associated with their product. Patient-reported outcomes (PROs) data related to treatment satisfaction, quality of life, and medication adherence is becoming an important tool for manufacturers when communicating to providers about the value of their product and in negotiating with payers for reimbursement. This information is also useful developing programs to help patients manage side effects and improve adherence. Unfortunately, PROs data are not always easy to collect.

An integrated channel partner that offers both hub services and health economics and outcomes research (HEOR) can deliver unique value to a manufacturer by collecting and analyzing PRO data. Hub services providers are ideally positioned to collect PROs because they already have access to, and relationships with, patients who are taking the products, as well as established channels for communication. The hub partner can deliver PROs surveys through its existing channels, reach out to patients to encourage participation, and share data with the HEOR team for analysis, enabling the manufacturer to leverage insights from the research to refine and enhance marketing and patient support programs.

Integrated Service Models, the Way of the Future

At a time when the process of launching new pharmaceutical products is becoming more complex, manufacturers are searching for more effective ways to compete—and differentiate—in crowded therapeutic classes, while still driving efficiency. These market dynamics are demanding that siloed service offerings give way to more integrated service models that help manufacturers drive new synergies, better leverage data, and improve returns for their product-launch investments.

Forward-thinking manufacturers are well served to seek out partners who offer specialized expertise and integrated services that can help their product launches be more effective and efficient while strengthening relationships with patients, providers, and payers alike. 

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