Each year, the Asembia Specialty Pharmacy Summit welcomes thousands of key stakeholders from specialty pharmacy, including drug manufacturers, industry analysts, health systems representatives, health plans, and pharmacies, in order to discuss key issues affecting the industry. This year, at the 15th annual meeting in Las Vegas, was no different.
Michael Carter, corporate director of specialty pharmacy at Partners Healthcare, part of the Excelera Integrated Delivery Network, said the 2019 meeting was very useful—not only because of the incredible variety of industry representation present but also because of the important topics discussed across the variety of talks and sessions.
Many stated they hoped to learn more about how different players were approaching HHs’ new proposed rebate rule—and Carter said that everyone in the business is “tracking that carefully,” waiting to see how it will evolve and what the fall-out might be for different business models. But, he said, there was not a lot of hard and fast intel on how that will all actually play out. Despite the lack of information on that particular front, Carter said the summit offered a “full menu.” He said the fact Asembia was able to offer such broad coverage across specialty pharmacy players made for a very comprehensive and productive meeting.
Here are three key issues that Carter took away from the 2019 Asembia Specialty Pharmacy Summit:
1. More health systems are looking at starting their own specialty pharmacy service—or join forces with existing ones.
As someone who works for a specialty pharmacy embedded within a health system, Carter said he saw a lot of affirmation that health systems are looking to provide their own specialty pharmacy service, either by creating their own or partnering with others.
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“By doing so, they can take advantage of a number of things,” Carter said. “Specialty pharmacy has evolved over the years. It’s getting more and more complex, with more drugs, which is great—but that adds a layer of confusion as this industry gets bigger because every insurer may have their own requirements for what pharmacy patients can go to, doctors may not know where to send prescriptions, and there may not be the right communications in place, to send data back and forth, in the old traditional retail specialty pharmacy model.”
With so many clinicians already overburdened, this older model just doesn’t work as well, Carter stated. When health systems have their own specialty pharmacy services, Carter said, they can ensure specialty pharmacy is a part of their organization’s integrated care model.
“You can imagine a doctor’s office that’s managing 20 different specialty pharmacies across their patients,” he said. “And it involves a lot of administrative work that causes a lot of chaos and confusion. In an integrated model, both specialty pharmacy and the clinicians have lots of different patient touch points. We can know what’s going on to help promote good care. And clinicians can focus on what they need to focus on: patient care.”
2. Drug development pipelines continue to grow
Carter said a second takeaway from the meeting is the significant and continuing investment in new drug development.
“Every time you go to one of these meetings, it wows you how many new drugs and new treatments are in the pipeline, especially for oncology,” he said. “It’s very exciting but it’s also very challenging. There are so many new products that you have to keep up with, understand, and then secure access to once they come to market. You need to help your clinicians get ready for them. With the speed of development being so quick, you need to do what it takes to be ready.”
3. A Focus on Emerging Technologies
Carter also noted that there was broad discussion of emerging technological solutions across the meeting.
“The term artificial intelligence came up a lot,” he said. “I think it’s an important thing to track. We see so much new AI-related technology on the diagnostic side and we are hoping to see it leveraged in specialty pharmacy in a way that can help our patients. I think this is something we’ll continue to see discussed in meetings to come.”
Kayt Sukel is a science and health writer based outside Houston.