Key Takeaways from Asembia 2018

Specialty Pharmacy Times2018 Asembia Recap
Volume 9
Issue 4

The annual Asembia Specialty Pharmacy Summit is the largest annual conference in the United States focused on specialty the specialty space.

The annual Asembia Specialty Pharmacy Summit is the largest annual conference in the United States focused on specialty the specialty space. This year, the conference welcomed approximately 6500 attendees, including executives from pharmacies and health systems, pharma and biotech manufacturers, drug wholesal- ers, payers, technology innovators, and other industry stakeholders, filling both the Wynn and Encore hotels in Las Vegas, Nevada.

The growing portfolio of specialty products exceeds a value of $200 billion, and there were more than 1000 organizations representing various interests that support those products in attendance.

As has been our tradition, we are providing you this Asembia summit recap issue designed to provide a snapshot of the event and provide a quick reference until next year’s summit. Attendees this year received the inaugural Specialty Pharmacy Times® daily conference newsletters, which helped them stay on top of the events.


The Asembia summit lineup included business workshops, educational seminars,exhibits, and live continuing education (CE) credits, along with numerous networking and social events. There were more than 80 educational seminars over the 4-day event. Discussion topics focused on current and future trends in specialty pharmacy, including the rise of consumerism, emerging alliances, innovative technologies, and patient access solutions. Outside of the summit, there were ongoing private meetings of professionals in the hallway and in “high-roller” suites. It seems every year, this is the place the industry comes to meet, reviewing past and ongoing opportunities, and exploring potential new business and professional relationships.


Each year, the program attendance grows exponentially and now stretches to the investor, technology, distributor communities, as well as other areas that touch the specialty channel. Despite some of the divisive issues that accompany this emerging industry, such as direct and indirect remuneration fees and limited distribution products, all sides continue to collaborate in the spirit of our beloved profession. This year, the exhibit floor reached new heights as the focal point for many interactions between specialty pharmacies, manufacturers, and service providers. It’s been fun to watch this element of Asembia grow from a small handful of booths to a full-blown trade show.

For our early risers, there was a sunrise 5K run/walk on the Las Vegas strip and relaxing yoga sessions. Although the weather this year did not fully cooperate, thousands of hearty and thirsty folks attended the unparalleled Asembia Beach Club Party, protected from the rain and cool temperature under the cover of cabana rooms and walk in bars with heat lamps throughout.


David Gregory, CNN analyst and former moderator of NBC’s Meet the Press, hosted an expert panel following a comprehensive discussion of areas to watch in 2018 and beyond. The panel consisted of industry experts from UCB, OptumRx, CastiaRx, and Asembia, who offered insight into disruptive forces affecting the industry. This year, we were treated to a trio of kickoff speakers featuring Adam Fein, PhD, president of Pembroke Consulting, Inc; Doug Long, vice president of industry relations at IQVIA (formerly QuintilesIMS); and Lisa Gill, managing director of JP Morgan Securities. Just some of the hot topics they covered included:

  • The battle among pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs), pharmacies, wholesalers, health plans, and providers for control of the specialty market and the patient journey.
  • Manufacturer specialty networks becoming larger and more inclusive.
  • The expanding channel control migrating from manufacturers to PBMs and payers.
  • Coevolving economics affecting the continued consolidation of specialty pharmacies.
  • The emergence of organized channels with new ownership and partnering relationships.

The CE session, “Preventing Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis Progression With Biologic Therapies,” was headlined by a great group, including Rolf Benirschke, CEO of Legacy Health Strategies. Football fans will remember Benirschke as a for- mer National Football League placekicker, whose 10-year career was nearly derailed during his third season by a life-threatening battle with ulcerative colitis. Today, he has dedicated his life to supporting patients and is now a respected leader and speaker in the health care industry.

A session updating the specialty pharmacy pipeline featured Ray Tancredi, RPh, MBA, of Walgreens Specialty Pharmacy, who was joined by an expert panel to spotlight emerging specialty therapies on the horizon. I’ve attended this every year, and it’s packed with information and runs at a fast pace. The program identified select specialty drugs in the pipeline and highlighted some areas to watch within the top medication classes, described the trends in orphan drugs that target rare diseases, reviewed the growing focus on specialty and oral drugs, and examined recent specialty product approvals.

The session, “Forging Successful Managed Care Partnerships: Strategies That Positively Affect Patient Care,” explored hurdles to medication access to patients and how specialty pharmacies must develop collaborative relationships with payers. The lineup of leaders on the panel, who come from both the specialty and market access spaces, shared insights from their deep experience. The panel was led by the current National Association of Specialty Pharmacy (NASP) president, Mike Agostino, accompanied by Keith Cook, vice president of specialty operations for MedImpact Direct; Neil Minkoff, MD, chief medical officer and vice president of EmpiraMed, Inc; Jennifer Szumowicz, RPh, director of specialty for CareSource; and Jay Weaver, PharmD, MPH, divisional vice president of enterprise pharmacy for Health Care Service Corporation.

One of the favorite programs I attended was, “Pharma Contracting: 2017 Year in Review and 2018 Forecast,” in which a team of experienced attorneys, Mike Hess, Kirk Hunt, Abby Kaplan, and Dan Tardiff, provided their real-world experience in the increasingly complex arrangements between manufacturers and specialty pharmacies while under the intense scrutiny of regulators. They also reviewed key legal concepts and missteps in specialty pharmacy contracting and how stakeholders can apply the requirements. Attendees gained insights from these specialty pharma legal industry veterans as they recapped everything you need to know about the intricate world of specialty pharma contracting.


In addition to Asembia, there is also the NASP 2018 Annual Meeting and Educational Conference, taking place September 24 to 26, 2018, in Washington, DC. Both feature a 1-stop shop for specialty programs. The sixth annual NASP meeting will provide comprehensive information regarding all aspects of specialty pharmacy, including the evolution of the market, how specialty pharmacies impact patient care, and national legislative and regulatory policy. The meeting will also feature the Specialty Pharmacy Law Conference, which offers CE credits to attendees, and a 1-day preparation course for phar- macists studying for October examinations given by the Specialty Pharmacy Certification Board for Certified Specialty Pharmacist certification. For more information, visit NASPMEETING.COM/GENERAL- INFORMATION?LINK=AGENDA#AGENDA.


Asembia just published the dates for next year, so mark it down on your calendar, as the event again will be held at the Wynn and Encore beginning April 29, 2019, through May 2, 2019.

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