Specialty Pharmacies Poised to Connect Ovarian Cancer Patients with Crucial Services
Patients with ovarian cancer often face complex burdens that go beyond just medication.
In the United States, a woman is diagnosed with ovarian cancer every 23 minutes, with relatively few cases detected early. Despite the groundbreaking advancements of oral therapies for the condition, patients still face significant burdens.
These burdens can range from problems with finances, transportation, family responsibilities, nutrition, or simple day-to-day activities. Unfortunately, for many women, these common issues can result in poor adherence to therapy and poor health outcomes.
Specialty pharmacies are in a unique position to provide patients—specifically those with ovarian cancer—with services to treat them more holistically, according to Kelly Ratliff, DPh, president of US Bioservices, a part of AmerisourceBergen.
“We engage with patients and their caregivers frequently over the phone and while they're in their own home. Because of that, we often learn information that patients may not have the chance to share with their doctor during office hours or retail pharmacies when they're picking up a medication,” Ratliff told Specialty Pharmacy Times. “That information about the impact of these treatments on their lives and their families is an opportunity to connect them with additional services.”
While specialty pharmacies already provide a wealth of services to patients, there is always more that can be done to ensure patients are achieving the best outcomes—not only in terms of medication.
For some patients, paying bills or finding transportation to physician appointments or the pharmacy may be difficult. Traditionally, women have been the primary caregiver to family members and loved ones. These factors, coupled with the demands of in-home ovarian cancer treatment, can be overwhelming, Ratliff told SPT.
“The challenge is that our patients are faced with coping with the physical and emotional impact of the disease, making achieving a positive outcome that much more complex,” she said. “If we're only trying to help the medication journey, we actually may not be doing as much as we possibly can to improve the lives of our patients.”
The key to providing these services and providing a more holistic treatment is listening and opening up the conversation beyond the medication journey. Moving from a ping-pong type conversation to an open dialogue is crucial to eliminating various barriers to treatment, especially for patients with ovarian cancer and their families, who are also impacted.
“The need for supportive services focused on the needs of women has never been more important,” Ratliff said. “We were in a pivotal role, as specialty pharmacies, to really make a difference in the lives of the women and their families and to think differently about how we approach that.”
By removing the various burdens that may arise, patients may be more likely to remain adherent to therapy and take care of themselves, which leads to a more positive health outcome.
US Bioservices has found that providing patients with a comprehensive list of resources based on where they live has been very successful in connecting them with necessary services, Ratliff said. The specialty pharmacy also has developed a list of questions to move past the typical questions to find out what is really important to patients and how their needs can be met.
By understanding the patient better, specialty pharmacies can provide more holistic care and expand their role in the patient journey.
“By trying to improve the day-to-day lives of these courageous women and their families, [specialty pharmacies] can help pave the way for a positive therapeutic outcome—at a minimum, making that journey just a little bit easier. That should be our goal,” Ratliff said.