Specialty Pharmacy Hubs: Poetry in Motion


Over time, hub operations have matured to act as sort of a middleman between manufacturers and specialty pharmacies.

Remember when you were a kid and it was the first time that you rode a bike? The rush, the exhilaration, and ultimately that feeling of success as the wind blew against your face. The sound of the hub and spokes of the wheels rotating in harmonious perfection against the gears as you cruised down the street in triumph.

With this metaphor in mind, specialty pharmacy has applied a hub and spoke model to provide services that better serve their patients as well as support manufacturers who supply specialty medications. These services are aptly referred to as hubs.

Hub services began operating similarly to a call center to aid manufacturers in offering financial aid to support access to their medications. As the use of specialty drugs have grown along with the high-touch care necessary for many of these drugs to ensure appropriate administration, use, and efficacy, a market to provide ancillary services grew in popularity.

Over time, these hub operations have matured to act as sort of a middleman between manufacturers and specialty pharmacies. Acting as a go-between, hubs aim to guide patients through their specialty therapy journey and increase their access to care while simultaneously helping manufacturers provide a consistent experience to the patients who are prescribed specialty products. These hubs provide several key functions, including reimbursement services, distribution services, adherence or clinical monitoring, and outcomes reporting.

Today, hub services have evolved beyond their key functions and include services such as big data collection and reporting, prior authorization and appeals, patient assistance programs, quick starts and bridge programs, and e-prescription routing.

But why is this so important?

As I’ve already mentioned, specialty pharmacy hubs personify the engineering of how a hub acts as the connector to all the spokes of the wheel as it rotates in a circular and circuitous motion. In terms of specialty pharmacy, the hub is what facilitates continuous and proper communication and balance to allow all key vendors and stakeholders (the spokes) to operate together in a synchronized fashion.

Patients who are prescribed specialty drugs can become overwhelmed with all the “special” effort that is required while on a specialty drug therapy. Patients who are taking a specialty medication need to maintain contact with multiple people, including the physician’s office, insurance companies, and pharmacies, as well patient education and advocacy groups.

Having a hub eliminates potential barriers of communication between the patient and their support systems. The hub can assist patients and manufacturers with nearly all matters pertaining to their specialty medication therapy, including co-pay and coinsurance management, finding their insurance plan’s preferred specialty pharmacy, formulary coverage, prior authorizations, step therapy, and medical equipment. Hubs and the staff that support them work concurrently with all key stakeholders to eliminate barriers and any outstanding issues that might inhibit or delay a patient’s access to their specialty drug therapy.

The mission and goal of a specialty pharmacy hub is to function as a guide and to blaze an efficient trail from the manufacturer to the patient. Keeping the patient as the primary focus, specialty pharmacy hubs can continue to thrive by facilitating and expediting the coordination, communication and implementation of all specialty drug services needed to improve access and outcomes for all specialty pharmacy patients.

About the Author

Ryan earned his Masters of Science in Healthcare Administration from Saint Joseph's University and has recently earned his Masters of Pharmacy Business Administration program from the University of Pittsburgh. Currently, Ryan works for the University of Pittsburgh, School of Pharmacy, Program Evaluation and Research Unit as a program implementation specialist. Ryan’s work is primarily focused on the opioid epidemic and provides technical assistance to stakeholders across the commonwealth in their mutual efforts to reduce opioid death rates in Pennsylvania. Ryan strives to continue his work as a healthcare professional and utilize his in-depth understanding of the business of medicines.

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