Roundtable discusses importance of specialty pharmacy, drugs

NEW YORK The subject of specialty pharmacy reached a whole new level of nuance as a wide variety of stakeholders gathered for a roundtable discussion on its role in health care Wednesday at The Chemists' Club in New York.

The roundtable, titled “Slowing the Impact: The Role of Specialty Pharmacy in Managing Progressive and Chronic Diseases” and moderated by Health Affairs editor-in-chief Susan Dentzer, included perspectives of a pharmacy benefit manager, a healthcare company, a pharmaceutical company, a multiple-sclerosis advocate, an ethicist and an MS patient, all sharing their perspectives on the fast-growing field.

Specialty drugs have grown at a rapid pace over the years. According to AARP, 6-of-the-top-10 drugs in the country are expected to be biologics by 2014, compared with 1-out-of-10 in 2000; and IMS Health predicted that the specialty pharmaceuticals services segment will reach $160 billion by 2013.

“In addition to becoming a unique category of pharmaceuticals, specialty drugs are becoming mainstream,” said Jacqueline Kosecoff, CEO of Prescription Solutions, a PBM and part of UnitedHealth Group.

Another perspective was that of Ken Bandler, a multiple-sclerosis patient diagnosed in 1990, who stressed the importance of accessibility. “There must be an effort to ensure [specialty drugs] are affordable for the patients who take them,” Bandler said, acknowledging the expenses and other challenges that go into developing drugs, which fellow panelist and Bristol-Myers Squibb VP health services for the Americas Ross Maclean had spoken about earlier.

Other panelists included Lee Newcomer, UnitedHealthcare VP oncology in women’s health and genetics; The Hastings Center deputy director and research scholar Nancy Berlinger; and PJ Weiner, senior manager for advocacy programs of the New York City-southern New York chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.

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