Over 7,000 people attended the meeting in Las Vegas this week.
The world of specialty pharmacy descended upon Las Vegas this week for the 19th Asembia Specialty Pharmacy Summit, and it is a world that is getting larger and more specialized — specialties within specialty.
“When we think about specialty, it's not just one thing anymore,” said Adam Fein, Ph.D., the drug pricing and supply channel who is something of a headliner of the meeting, held at Wynn and Encore Las Vegas hotel. “It's highly personalized medicines. It's cell and gene therapy. It's traditional specialty drugs. It's so-called specialty like products. There's a whole range of products we can think about as what makes us specialty pharmacy.”
The meeting organizers said more than 7,000 people attended the meeting, which from April 30 through May 4. The meeting included 28 continuing education sessions on clinical topics, 41 business sessions, and a general session that featured Fein interview Seema Verma, M.P.H., the administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) during the Trump administration.
Attendees speak unabashedly about skipping most if not all of the sessions because they are in meetings with past, present or potential clients. Aside from findings from industry surveys, no research findings are presented at the meeting and there are no poster presentations or abstracts. Among the companies with the biggest exhibits in the exhibition hall were Cardinal Health and AmerisourcBergen, the drug wholesalers. Sandoz, a division of Novartis, had a booth entirely devoted to its Humira biosimilar, Hyrimoz, which the company is expected to put on the market in July. Mark Cuban, who launched his online generic drug business, Mark Cuban Cost Plus Drug Company in January 2022, was spotted on Monday.
Specialty pharmacy is a pharmaceutical industry term that doesn’t have strict definitional borders but includes expensive drugs for relatively are conditions and separate distribution channels from so-called traditional pharmacy. Doug Long, MBA, vice president industry relations at IQVIA and like Fein, a regular speaker at the meeting, said his presentation that spending on specialty drugs accounted for more than 50% of total pharmacy spending for the first time in 2021.
Asembia, headquartered in Florham Park, New Jersey, is a company that supplies specialty pharmacies with a variety of services related to patients, contracting and technology. Its name recognition in the industry has grown as the annual meeting bearing its name has grown. Asembia officials say two dozen people attended the first Asembia specialty summit in December 2005, which was held at the Wynn property several months after it first opened.
The drug-related provisions of the Inflation Reduction Act, which include CMS price negotiation and Medicare Part D benefit redesign, was came up during many of the business sessions of the meeting and was the featured topic of four of them. It made Fein’s list of six things to keep an eye on.
“I know everyone was buzzing about the inflation Reduction Act. But if you haven't heard, this is not just going to affect Medicare. We’re going to see it flow through and have contagion effects throughout the system,” he said.
Rare diseases, cell and gene therapy and biosimilars were also among the featured topics of several of the business sessions.
In an interview before the meeting, Ray Tancredi, a divisional vice president at Walgreens who was featured speaker about specialty drug pipeline, said the gene therapies reminded him of the early days of the specialty pharmacy, which arose because of the expense of the drugs and the need for special handling.
“It’s almost specialty — and I don't want to say I am going to say it — specialty on steroids from a cost perspective. But it is exciting, nevertheless. I mean we have all been through specialty pharmacy as it has evolved. And I think this is a natural evolution, probably into another business line.”