The Unique Competencies of Oncology Pharmacy

Specialty Pharmacy Times, March/April 2015, Volume 6, Issue 2

Specialty pharmacists are instrumental in addressing the particular needs of patients undergoing highly specialized cancer treatments.

Specialty pharmacists are instrumental in addressing the particular needs of patients undergoing highly specialized cancer treatments.

Targeted therapies, biologic pharmaceuticals, and orphan drugs have proliferated in recent years. With these new drugs comes an increased need for pharmacy services that go beyond the traditional pharmacy capabilities of the past. Due to these trends and market needs, specialty pharmacy has seen enormous growth as an industry.

The trends that drove the need for specialty pharmacy are also currently driving the need for more specialized services for certain complex disease states. Nowhere is this more evident than in the field of oncology.

The need for oncology pharmacy as a separate and distinct pharmacy discipline was born out of 3 overarching trends:

  • A robust and rapidly expanding pipeline for specialty therapies
  • Health care’s ever-increasing cost burden, particularly in cancer care
  • The rising incidence of cancer, which is expected to increase by 75% worldwide over the next decade or so

As a result of these driving forces and the inherent complexity of cancer, both traditional and biotech drug manufacturers, as well as payers, have looked to the market for more novel, high-touch solutions to help optimize care beyond traditional specialty pharmacy practice.

The complexities of cancer care demand an approach and focus that did not exist until the rise of oncology pharmacy. What makes oncology pharmacy unique as its own discipline within specialty pharmacy is its ability to address those complexities, which include:

  • Multidrug treatment protocols with evidence-based guidelines
  • A dynamic, ever-changing disease that requires frequent dosing and treatment adjustments
  • Shorter dosing regimens, often with varying treatment days within 1 cycle
  • Ever more complex benefit coverage options
  • A growing reliance by patients on financial assistance to enable access to therapies

In oncology pharmacy, there are unique competencies required to meet the highly specialized way in which cancer is treated (see Table). The successful practice of oncology pharmacy requires the commitment of the entire organization to be patient-centric above all and to always be mindful and considerate of the enormous challenges that patients with cancer bravely battle on a daily basis.

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At the end of the day, the most important element of a successful oncology pharmacy practice is a company culture based on the understanding that everyone involved in the process of filling a prescription is critical to helping provide excellent care to patients who need it most. Specialized oncology pharmacy services provide a valuable extension to a patient’s care management team, and with the right level of focus and support, can also help optimize the clinical and financial value for complex and expensive cancer medications. SPT

About the Author

Amvrosios Ioannidis, MBA, is vice president of marketing and product management at Onco360. He is responsible for the development, execution, and maintenance of Onco360’s brand and marketing strategies, including supporting sales, public and trade relations, account management, and key cross-functional operations and work groups, as well as product management. He has more than 13 years of marketing experience in the health care and pharmacy services sectors and previously held marketing positions at Medco Health Solutions, Inc. Mr. Ioannidis has a master of business administration degree from William Paterson University. He is a member of the editorial board of Specialty Pharmacy Times.