With All-Oral Regimens on the Horizon, Walgreens Expands Hepatitis C Patient Care Program

Noting advances in hepatitis C treatment regimens, Walgreens expands access to its hepatitis C–focused patient care program.

Noting advances in hepatitis C treatment regimens, Walgreens expands access to its hepatitis C—focused patient care program.

Walgreens will expand its hepatitis C patient education and support plan program, after noting treatment advances, particularly the potential for all-oral treatment regimens, the company announced in a February 17, 2014, press release—a week prior to the FDA granting breakthrough therapy designation to Bristol-Myers Squibb’s all-oral daclatasvir and asunaprevir combination therapy regimen.

The daclatasvir and asunaprevir combination therapy regimen is currently undergoing phase-3 clinical trials and showed favorable results in clinical efficacy trials conducted in 2013. The designation, which can expedite the drug review process, is contingent upon preliminary clinical evidence that shows substantial improvement over existing therapies, according to a February 24, 2014, press release.

Walgreens Connected Care will be available in more than 100 hepatitis C—specialized pharmacies that the company owns. The Walgreens Connected Care program is meant to help patients achieve sustained virologic response, while also improving quality of life via medication adherence, a release from the company states.

“While recent hepatitis C therapy advances can be more effective and present fewer side effects, some patients with high instance of comorbidity can experience difficulty in managing care and an increased cost of therapy,” said Glen Pietrandoni, Walgreens director of specialty products and services, virology. “Walgreens Connected Care hepatitis C program, delivered through our hepatitis C—specialized pharmacies, is designed to meet the holistic needs of people diagnosed with hepatitis C—before, during, and after HCV [hepatitis C virus] treatment. This can help patients achieve SVR [sustained virologic response] and an improved quality of life through medication adherence, while continuing to manage other health outcomes.”

Given the recent treatment advances, Walgreens reported seeing an increase in requests for information and support regarding oral medications. Expanding access to its hepatitis C—focused pharmacies, the chain hopes to support patients who did not achieve success on past therapies, the company said in an e-mail to Specialty Pharmacy Times.

“Hospitals, physicians, and payers are all interested in ensuring that medications are used correctly and patients achieve improved clinical outcomes,” the company said in the e-mail. “When you consider the high cost of hepatitis C medication therapy and required high levels of adherence, extending patient care teams to the community pharmacist helps protect the payers’ investment and helps achieve clinical goals.”

The support services include 24-hour access to specially trained pharmacists, insurance verification assistance, and identification of financial assistance options. Its other services include medication access or delivery through either Walgreens retail locations or Walgreens Specialty Pharmacy services, and pharmacist-led medication checkpoints that gauge response to medication and encourage medication adherence.

The recent advances in hepatitis C treatment have clinicians pondering treatment guideline for the disease, particularly in light of the rapid developments. The current treatment guidelines were last updated in 2011, although a new website offers official and up-to-date guidelines, a Specialty Pharmacy Times article from February 10, 2014, states.

Another factor complicating the dissemination of new guidelines is the rate of innovation—the advances hit well in advance of most print journals’ deadlines, and even outpaced the schedule of journals with online updates, the article states.