How specialty pharmacies can make a difference

Jan 17, 2023
Express Scripts member and nurse

When a patient is diagnosed with a complex, chronic health condition, they may be prescribed a specialty medication. These medications often can’t be dispensed from a typical pharmacy and may require special handling and complex administration. That’s where specialty pharmacies come in. Specialty pharmacies have the experience and access to dispense specialty medications. Some – including Accredo – provide enhanced services, such as extensive patient education, pharmacists and nurses to help with administration and managing side effects and assistance connecting with available financial assistance programs.

Specialty Medications

Specialty medications are typically used to treat chronic, complex and rare conditions such as multiple sclerosis, cancer and rheumatoid arthritis. Unlike most medications dispensed from traditional pharmacies, specialty medications can be complicated to administer – while some can be taken orally, most need to be injected, infused or inhaled. Treatment can be life-changing for patients and their families, but it can also come with challenges such as complicated treatment regimens, side effects and higher medication costs.

Specialty Pharmacies Make the ‘Complex’ a Little Bit Simpler

Each patient -- whether newly diagnosed, switching to a new therapy or stable on a specialty therapy – will encounter times when having the support of a specialty pharmacy can reduce complexity. Here are some ways the knowledge and experiences of a specialty pharmacy can help:

Condition-Focused Clinical Teams

Many specialty pharmacies provide enhanced patient education, clinical guidance and personalized services that give patients the support they need to safely and effectively follow their treatment plans. That’s important because taking medication as prescribed is associated with lower overall healthcare costs and better overall health.

Accredo has pharmacists, nurses, dieticians and social workers – organized in condition-specific teams to support patients on their treatment journeys. This clinical model has been proven over time to lead to better health outcomes.

Flexible Communication Options

Because of the complex and sometimes life-sustaining nature of specialty therapies, many specialty pharmacies have clinicians available around the clock to answer questions over the phone. For patients who prefer digital communication, many specialty pharmacies offer options to order specialty medications or connect with a clinician online. Patient interest in managing specialty medications and health through digital tools has grown significantly during the COVID-19 pandemic. Today, more than 40% of Accredo orders are filled through a self-service channel, an increase of 300% since 2016.

Physician Services

Additionally, many specialty pharmacies, including Accredo, coordinate directly with physicians’ offices to reduce the burden of required paperwork and approvals on the patient. Web-based physician portals with live chat features, such as, help keep the lines of communication open between a patient’s physician and the specialty pharmacy team.

Delivery Options

Specialty pharmacies typically offer choices in where and how patients get their medications. Patients can often choose their delivery date and location. For certain therapies, medication can be administered by an infusion nurse in the comfort of a patient’s home.

Financial Assistance Coordination

Affordability can be a major obstacle for many specialty patients and their families. Pharmaceutical manufacturers and foundations offer patients much-needed financial support, but navigating available programs and patient eligibility can be overwhelming. Some specialty pharmacies have the knowledge and resources to connect patients to these programs. In 2022, almost half of all Accredo patients received copay assistance and Accredo’s dedicated copay assistance representatives helped to coordinate $2.3 billion dollars in copay assistance for patients.

Specialty pharmacies are an integral part of a patient’s care team. By providing tools, resources, clinical knowledge and other services beyond those available at a traditional pharmacy, they help patients manage complex medication treatment plans, medication coverage issues and potential side effects.

For people who need a specialty medication, the right pharmacy can make all the difference.

Learn more about how you can get started working with Accredo to manage a complex or chronic condition.

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