Now it’s proven: specialty pharmacy helps reduce healthcare spend
WHAT IT MEANS AND WHY IT’S IMPORTANT — "I appreciate the fact that [Walgreens is] trying to do some very good things with respect to clinical offerings and other avenues to try to impact the overall healthcare spectrum. But quite frankly, that hasn’t been proven to reduce cost." That was what George Paz, Express Scripts chairman, president and CEO, said Thursday morning about the go-to-market strategy currently being employed by Walgreens. Later that day, Walgreens released these data — contrary to Paz’s take on the value of Walgreens. While the timing of Walgreens’ announcement soon after Paz made his remarks might have been serendipitous, the results — that Walgreens is helping to reduce cost with respect to clinical offerings and other avenues — is not the kind of good fortune you come across accidentally.
(THE NEWS: Study: Walgreens Specialty Pharmacy can cut infusion medication costs by more than half. For the full story, click here.)
Bottom line: Specialty pharmacy services are one way retail pharmacy operators can effectively move that healthcare cost needle down, and it’s something that pharmacy operators from independents on up to national chains like Walgreens have been doing for a while now.
Specialty pharmacy is an overall healthcare-cost-cutting tool that Walgreens means to keep sharp — just this month, Walgreens announced its proposed acquisition of BioScrip’s community specialty pharmacies and centralized specialty and mail-service pharmacy businesses, all of which will further help grow Walgreens’ ability to leverage its specialty pharmacy division against those rising healthcare costs. According to the company, Walgreens is already the nation’s leading provider of home infusion and No. 3 provider of specialty pharmacy, and the BioScrip acquisition will help to fortify that position.
As another example as to the influence Walgreens can potentially have on cost reduction initiatives through its specialty pharmacy and infusion pharmacy arms, Walgreens’ Medical Injectable Drug Program recently saved a health plan client approximately $28.5 million over a two-year period by facilitating the dispensing of almost 50 injectable pharmaceutical products typically administered in physician offices to the lower-cost option of Walgreens Specialty Pharmacy, Walgreens executives recently told DSN.
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Hospira joins GPhA
LAKE FOREST, Ill. — Generic drug maker Hospira has joined the country’s largest lobby for the generic drug industry, the company said.
Hospira, which specializes in generic injectables and infusion technology, announced that it had joined the Generic Pharmaceutical Association. In addition to generic pharmaceuticals, the company also makes biosimilars for the European market.
"We are pleased to welcome Hospira to GPhA, and we look forward to their joining in the association’s mission to improve the lives of consumers by providing timely access to affordable pharmaceuticals," GPhA president and CEO Ralph Neas said.
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Study: Walgreens Specialty Pharmacy can cut infusion medication costs by more than half
DEERFIELD, Ill. — Walgreens Specialty Pharmacy on Thursday released data showing that both patients and their health plans can realize savings of up to 60% on the cost of infused specialty medications by choosing alternate treatment sites. The cost savings was the key finding from new data being presented at the 2012 Pharmacy Benefit Management Institute Annual Drug Benefit Conference in Scottsdale, Ariz.
An analysis of Walgreens internal data shows the opportunity for significant cost savings when health plans and patients shift infusion services from high-cost sites-of-care, such as outpatient hospital settings, to lower-cost sites, such as Walgreens Specialty Care Centers or other alternate treatment locations. The Walgreens analysis focused on sites-of-care for infused specialty medications, which can cost between $500 and $20,000 per treatment. The top 10 specialty medications being infused at outpatient hospitals included eight chemotherapy and two nonchemotherapy agents. The study found that outpatient hospital drug costs were, on average, 86% higher than costs at alternate sites, and that the two nonchemotherapy infusions alone were able to deliver $6.3 million in savings per 1 million commercial health plan beneficiaries per year.
“Considering the heightened focus on healthcare cost reductions, the most notable finding is that there are significant opportunities to reduce costs simply by having patients receive their health services at an alternate location,” said Michael Einodshofer, director of utilization management at Walgreens Specialty Pharmacy. “The potential benefits go beyond saving money, as lower-cost alternate treatment sites can help improve medication compliance and provide more convenient patient access to treatment, without compromising quality or safety.”
Two of the biggest hurdles to using alternate treatment sites are lack of awareness of available options and limited awareness of the benefits, Einodshofer added. In many cases, an alternate treatment site could be a patient’s home or place of employment. Walgreens is one of the largest home infusion providers, offering access to patient care in their homes, workplace health centers, and Walgreens Specialty Care Centers across the country. These alternate treatment sites provide convenient, cost-effective access to patients who require monitored infusible and injectable medications.
“We recognize that many physicians are looking for alternate sites for their patients’ infusions, and that health plans and patients are looking for new high quality and cost-effective options,” Einodshofer said. “The major benefits of the Walgreens site-of-care optimization management plan are that patients continue to receive their necessary medications uninterrupted; healthcare providers continue to prescribe specialty medications without any new administrative burden; and payer costs have been shown to drop significantly.”
Kudos to Walgreen's for driving home the point the rest of the home infusion providers have been advocating since the late 1970's, that is, complex infusion therapies can be provided at significantly lower costs in sites other than an acute or sub-acute care setting. As a pioneer infusion provider for over 27 years, our initial goal was to provide our infusion therapies in the home at a rate of 25% of what the current hospital charges were in 1984. Our success and growth affirms that we met and continually exceed that expectation. What continues to puzzle me is why Medicare never adopted a pure home infusion therapy benefit. Perhaps under the leadership of Walgreen's and specifically Kermit Crawford, we will see significantly increased opportunity for all infusion providers while helping to curb the runaway healthcare costs born by the Federal government.