WHAT IT MEANS AND WHY IT'S IMPORTANT — A 30% rise in attendance at the Armada Specialty Pharmacy Summit is nothing to brush off — it's as clear an indication as any that specialty pharmacy is growing and probably poised for more growth in the near future, thanks in particular to the aging population and consequential rise in the number of people living with difficult-to-treat medical conditions.
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The latest events in drug development certainly would indicate this. On Thursday, GBI Research released a report showing that the market for orphan drugs, treatments for rare diseases, would increase in value from 2010's $2.3 billion to $6 billion in 2018. This came the day after Pfizer and Protalix BioTherapeutics won Food and Drug Administration approval for a new drug for Gaucher disease. Last month, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America released a report showing that drug companies invested $49.5 billion in research and development in 2011, noting that of the 35 drugs to win approval last year, 14 were for conditions that fall under the category of those addressed by specialty pharmacy, including the first new drug for lupus since 1955.
Pharmacy retailers certainly have taken notice as well, which is why more and more of them have been getting into specialty, with Walgreens, Hy-Vee and Costco Wholesale serving as notable examples. Last month, Walgreens Infusion Services presented a study at the National Home Infusion Association's annual conference in Phoenix, indicating that its home infusion service may deliver services for patients with hereditary angioedema, a rare and life-threatening genetic disorder, faster than emergency room visits. According to the study, more than 92% of Walgreens' treatments of patients experiencing episodes with Dyax's injected drug Kalbitor (ecallantide) occurred within two hours, while the average emergency room stay lasts longer than two hours.
Walgreens isn't the only company to offer home infusion services, meaning that the providers that do offer them, as well as other specialty pharmacy services, could immensely benefit from them, as can patients who can access an expanded range of services from an expanded range of providers.