Lucky No. 7: Annual Armada Specialty Pharmacy Summit attendance grows 50%

Former President George W. Bush highlights opening day program

LAS VEGAS — The seventh annual Armada Specialty Pharmacy Summit, convened at The Wynn resort and casino this week, attracted nearly 1,500 attendees — a rise of almost 50% over 2010 — and about 80 exhibiting companies.

The event, which brings together senior executives from leading pharmaceutical and biotech companies, managed care organizations, wholesalers and various other healthcare stakeholders, has grown from a small meeting for Armada member pharmacies to the largest national conference for the specialty pharmacy industry, noted Armada Health Care CEO Larry Irene.

Tuesday’s agenda featured two live continuing education programs — one focused on risk evaluation and mitigation strategies and another on medication errors — but the conference officially kicked off Wednesday morning with welcoming remarks from Irene. Teeing up the conversation — which included a standing room-only keynote address from former President George W. Bush — Accredo Health Group VP Bill Martin and Pfizer Specialty Care and Oncology president and general manager Geno Germano delivered state of the market overviews of the specialty pharmacy market and the pharma/biotech industry, respectively.

Martin identified eight mega-trends he believes will shape the future of specialty pharmacy, including:

  • The specialty pharmacy spend will continue to grow, attracting more attention from payers, who will look to more aggressively manage costs through a number of levers, including tiered co-pays, step therapy and other measures;

  • Small molecule drugs will go generic in the next five years — as much as $100 billion worth in the next five years;

  • The specialty pharmacy pipeline is substantial, with 600 new drugs in development, about 40% of which represent new oncology drugs and only about 30% of which are infusion-based therapies;

  • The move from shotgun to targeted medicine, with as much as 70% of the development pipeline with identified biomarkers, and pharmacogenomics playing an increasing role in drug discovery and prescribing;

  • Legislative and regulatory activity will continue to impact the market, as 32 million-plus new lives receive coverage under heath reform in the coming years, Medicaid comes under new pressure, REMS continues to mire down the approval process and track-and-trace dialogue continues;

  • The pathway for biosimilar approvals will begin to emerge, with direction from FDA expected some time this year, as well as a clarification on exclusivity periods;

  • Co-pay cards will gain more scrutiny from payers and the government; and

  • Adherence will be the big win for specialty pharmacy providers, which Martin said are uniquely positioned to deliver, given the high-touch patient-care model. However, the issue of fair market value will continue be debated, with specialty pharmacy providers pressured to deliver fair and consistent pricing, and manufacturers challenged to demonstrate value for their products through actionable patient-outcome data.

Germano focused his remarks on some of the challenges that continue to face pharmaceutical and biotech manufacturers at the macro level. The industry continues to face massive scrutiny for high therapy costs, yet pharmaceutical costs continue to represent just 10% of total healthcare spending. With only about 2-out-of-every-10 drugs ever recouping the research and discovery costs necessary to launch, Pharma companies face massive pressure in how they deliver new innovation, he said. Further, new hurdles like REMS have vastly extended the approval process for specialty and biotech drugs, with the average review process lasting some 47.5 months for a specialty/biotech drug, versus an average approval window of 14.5 months for a drug that doesn’t require a REMS program.

Lastly, Armada manufacturer relations VP Anthony Davino provided a year-in-review look at some of the newer programs the company has developed to serve its members. In addition to its role as the nation’s largest purchasing organization for specialty pharmacy providers, Armada also offers important channel management programs and operates the largest network of specialty pharmacy providers through the Armada Specialty Pharmacy Network. New services and programs include its ReachRx prior authorization services, which is powered by Emdeon technology. Also new in 2011 is ReachRx OTM, an online therapy management tool that helps specialty pharmacy providers optimize drug utilization and clinical outcomes by tracking key therapy intervention points.

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