Hurricane Harvey Shows Why Specialty Pharmacies Matter During Natural Disasters


Houston-based specialty pharmacy takes extraordinary measures to demonstrate commitment to their patients during Hurricane Harvey.

The mission statements of many specialty pharmacies include a promise to their patients that they will go above and beyond to provide the best possible care. Every day, these pharmacies ensure that the patient remains their top priority.


The widespread devastation resulting from Hurricane Harvey has threatened the lives of thousands of citizens of Houston, TX, especially those who may not be able to access necessary medical care. In times like these, we truly see how specialty pharmacies put patients first through their actions to secure treatments for those in need.


Southside Specialty Pharmacy of Houston, TX, is just 1 example of the extraordinary actions performed by specialty pharmacies for their patients.


On Friday, August 25, in the midst of Hurricane Harvey, Southside received a call from Texas Children’s Hospital asking for access to Impavido (miltefosine), which is used to treat Leishmaniasis. Due to the rare nature of the condition and because the drug costs approximately $49,000 for a 28-day supply, it was not available at surrounding pharmacies.


Instead of hoping another pharmacy would be able to provide the drug for the hospital, the Southside staff stepped up and exceeded expectations, all for the sake of 1 patient.


“We're here to serve the community in times of need,” said Romil Patel, PharmD, RPh, manager of Southside Specialty Pharmacy, in an interview with Specialty Pharmacy Times.


Harish Katharani, founder and CEO of Southside, contacted Impavido’s manufacturer to inform them of the urgent need for their drug in Texas.  While the manufacturer was willing to overnight a shipment of Impavido, the hurricane intervened and made shipping impossible.


Again, instead of giving up hope, Sonia Alizzi, director of nursing at Southside, got on a plane and flew across the country to ensure the patient would receive Impavido in a timely manner. Alizzi flew with the medication from Orlando, FL, to Houston and landed just hours before the William P. Hobby Airport was shut down due to the extreme weather conditions.


Alizzi was met by Patel, who verified the medication. In a true testament to the teamwork necessary to treat specialty patients, Katharani delivered the medication to the patient’s home within 1 hour of its arrival.


These amazing feats were accomplished as the wrath of Hurricane Harvey battered the Lone Star State with severe flooding and destruction.


In a separate event, Southside provided services to TexanPlus patients, despite not having a contract with the Medicare Advantage provider. TexanPlus notified their case workers of the emergency partnership with the specialty pharmacy.


A TexanPlus patient was in need of treatment with an intravenous drug, but would not be able to receive it due to the dangerous conditions; however, Katharani traveled 1.5 hours to meet the case worker to ensure that the patient would receive their treatment.


Although their 14-foot basement flooded, Southside remained open during Hurricane Harvey, demonstrating their commitment to treating patients.


“We are there no matter what the situation is,” Hatharani said. “We always keep our pharmacy open. No matter what happens, I and a few employees will be here.”


Southside also told SPT that numerous large specialty pharmacies owned by pharmacy benefit managers were unable to ship their medications during this time and that this underscores the importance of independent specialty pharmacies.


“This really highlights the need for independent specialty pharmacies to exist in this space. It also highlights the limitations of the PBM-owned pharmacies,” Patel said. “If you don't have the local strength, you can’t get through a crisis like this. This just exposes how much limitations they [PBM-owned pharmacies] have. When everything else is shut down, it is the regional players that come into play and they provide the services.”






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