The Evolving Landscape of Specialty Pharmacy Services

The Evolving Landscape of Specialty Pharmacy Services

Walgreens recently announced its plans to partner directly with drugmakers to provide cell and gene therapies to patients in the United States. This initiative is part of a broader expansion of the company's specialty pharmacy . The establishment of a new business unit dedicated to the specialty pharmacy segment, which includes AllianceRx as a subsidiary, signifies Walgreens' commitment to providing specialized care to patients with chronic, , or complex conditions.

Specialty pharmacies have emerged as key players in the U.S. healthcare system, particularly as the prevalence of chronic diseases grows. These pharmacies specialize in handling, storing, and distributing medications that require unique care. They cater to patients with conditions such as cancer, Crohn's disease, and HIV, offering counseling and financial assistance to support individuals undergoing costly treatments.

In response to the increasing demand for advanced therapies, Walgreens is in new infrastructure to enhance its specialty pharmacy services. The company will be opening a licensed facility in Pittsburgh dedicated to cell and gene therapies. This 18,000-square-foot center will assist drugmakers and healthcare providers in navigating the complexities of the supply chain for these treatments.

The decision to launch cell and gene therapy services comes at a time when the FDA has been approving a growing number of these treatments in the U.S. and the European Union. Cell and gene therapies are revolutionary one-time treatments that target the genetic source of a disease. Some experts believe that these therapies have the to replace traditional lifelong treatments for chronic conditions.

With the FDA projecting an increase in the approval of cell and gene therapies in the coming years, Walgreens is positioning itself as a leader in the specialty pharmacy market. The newly established business unit aims to provide patients with access to a comprehensive range of resources, including specialized clinicians, nutritionists, and nurses, to support their treatment .

Walgreens distinguishes itself as the largest independent provider of specialty pharmacy services, generating approximately $24 billion in from this segment alone. Unlike many competitors, Walgreens' Specialty Pharmacy business is not tied to a pharmacy benefit manager, giving the company the flexibility to work closely with pharmaceutical manufacturers and healthcare providers to deliver innovative treatments to patients more efficiently.

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By integrating AllianceRx and its network of community-based pharmacies into the new business unit, Walgreens is expanding the scope of services available to patients. These pharmacies, strategically located near medical facilities and health systems, have the capability to provide specialty drugs faster than the average. In addition to dispensing medications, they offer services such as injection and side-effect management to ensure a smooth treatment experience for patients.

Walgreens boasts a team of over 1,500 specialty pharmacists, 5,000 patient-advocacy support team members, and dedicated specialty pharmacy teams focused on delivering high-quality care. The company offers an extensive range of specialty drugs, including 240 “limited distribution” drugs that are not widely available at other specialty pharmacies, further demonstrating its commitment to meeting the unique needs of patients with complex medical conditions.

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