Hy-Vee Expands Footprint with Specialty Pharmacy Acquisition

Hy-Vee's chief health officer says growth of specialty drug market spurred grocery chain to purchase Amber Pharmacy.

Hy-Vee’s chief health officer says growth of specialty drug market spurred grocery chain to purchase Amber Pharmacy.

With specialty drug spending projected to reach new heights in the coming years, Midwestern grocery store chain Hy-Vee, Inc, is poised to raise its profile in the rapidly growing market.

In February 2014, Hy-Vee agreed to acquire specialty pharmacy solutions provider Amber Pharmacy, expanding an existing partnership between the companies that was launched in 2010. Hy-Vee Chief Health Officer Andy McCann said in an interview with Specialty Pharmacy Times that the move will allow Hy-Vee to meet the needs of a market predicted to undergo dramatic growth in the future.

“We’ve had a partnership with Amber for 4 years called Hy-Vee Pharmacy Solutions, so basically the acquisition of Amber is an expansion of our current partnership and a natural progression of the customer care we’ve been giving since 1969,” McCann said. “This will allow us to continue to expand our offerings in health and wellness.”

The acquisition comes at a time when drug spending is expected to increase by 6% or more annually from 2015 through 2022, according to a report from the Center for Medicaid & Medicare Services. As domestic spending on prescription drugs reached a total of $263.3 billion in 2012, spending in the specialty drug market surged 19% on a unit cost level.

In a report released in February, America’s Health Insurance Plans focused on the soaring costs of specialty drugs, with more than half of the drugs approved by the FDA last year specialty medications.

“We’ve been watching the industry and the direction in which pharmacy is going,” McCann said. “About 30% of the pharmaceutical drugs sold last year were in the specialty area. By 2018, specialty drugs are forecast to overtake traditional drugs in volume, so that’s the direction the world is going.”

When Hy-Vee and Amber began their collaboration on Hy-Vee Pharmacy Solutions in 2010, McCann said the vision for the partnership had more of a regional focus. But the Iowa-based Hy-Vee, which currently operates retail pharmacies in 8 states, can now work to grow its offerings in the specialty market to an entirely new level, McCann noted.

“When we started Hy-Vee Solutions, it was designed for us to offer specialty medications in our area,” he said. “We can now expand to a larger area and have a national footprint. Somebody can now walk into a Hy-Vee in any state that we serve and have any medication available to them on the market today.”