What is a Specialty Drug?

Published On: May 24th, 2023Categories: Patients, Services, Specialty

Specialty drugs, also known as specialty pharmaceuticals, are a type of medicine classified as high-cost, high complexity, and/or high touch. Specialty drugs typically require special handling, administration or monitoring, and are used to treat complex or rare chronic conditions such as cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, hemophilia, psoriasis, inflammatory bowel disease, and hepatitis C. These medications typically require intense clinical monitoring to manage severe side effects, need frequent adjustments in dosage, and often need to be filled by a specialty pharmacy. Additionally, the price of specialty drugs is much higher than non-specialty drugs and is often defined as specialty because of their cost. Despite being expensive, specialty drugs are a critical advancement in the field of medicine and have the potential to greatly enhance an individual’s quality of life and increase their lifespan.

Specialty Drugs and Specialty Pharmacy 

Patients fighting cancer or dealing with a difficult condition like multiple sclerosis may be prescribed a specialty drug. Distribution and dispensing of specialty drugs is very different from a regular prescription. An individual cannot visit a local pharmacy with a prescription and walk out with a specialty drug. If you are prescribed a specialty drug, you may only be able to obtain your medication through a specialty pharmacy. Specialty pharmacies help patients navigate their difficult disease state and treatment protocols by assisting them with access to prescriptions, providing financial assistance to reduce the high costs, and offering tools to assist with medication adherence and compliance. Specialty pharmacies are also different from regular pharmacies because they take a more active role in a patient’s healthcare. They can provide guidance on how to properly use a medication and do frequent health checks with patients or their medical team after starting a medication. When a specialty medication has a limited distribution it is easier for prescribers, patients, caregivers, and manufacturers to track a patient’s progress with the treatment. Working with a specialty pharmacy, patients are more likely to complete the proper treatment guidelines, which leads to higher adherence and better treatment outcomes. 

Patient Support 

In addition to filling your prescription, specialty pharmacies offer additional support for patients to make the treatment journey as successful as possible. By utilizing a specialty pharmacy, you will be able to take advantage of the following services: 

  • Educational resources and assistance to help manage your condition 
  • Training on appropriate storage and self-injection
  • Free delivery of your medication
  • Necessary supplies for administering your medication, such as syringes, injection site supplies, and sharps containers
  • 24/7 access to a pharmacist or nurse
  • Assistance and support to ensure you take prescribed medication correctly and adhere to the drug therapy
  • Clinical support for dosing and potential side effects
  • Prescription refill reminders

Specialty pharmacy offers patients a superior level of customer service that traditional pharmacies may not be able to provide. Regular communication between specialty pharmacists and patients ensures that medication is taken correctly, side effects are managed effectively, and adherence to specific treatment plans is maintained. On average 6 out of 10 medications are not taken properly. However, with the elevated customer service provided by specialty pharmacies, medication adherence can be improved- which is especially important for high-cost drugs. Specialty pharmacies make every effort to avoid mishandling or wasting costly specialty drugs, often dispensing only a 15-day supply (instead of a 30-day supply) to confirm that a patient can tolerate the medication. Throughout the entire dispensing process, specialty drug manufacturers work closely with specialty pharmacies to ensure that patients have appropriate access to and knowledge of their medications for optimal outcomes. 

The Cost of Specialty Drugs

Financial Assistance programs can bridge the financial gap by offering assistance based on an assessment of the patient’s situation. The amount of financial assistance varies by drug and manufacturer. Specialty pharmacies like PFSP have an expert team of specialists trained to look for opportunities of financial support through manufacturer assistance programs. 

PFSP Specialty Pharmacy provides patients and their physicians an exceptionally high standard of care with our growing team of specialized pharmacists and staff. Our dedicated team of pharmacists focus on improving adherence for patients and work to find an approach that works best for them. Bringing a fresh take on what a Specialty Pharmacy can and should be, we are committed to the care of our patients. We take pride in being an ethical resource within our community and strive each day to help our patients live enriching and full lives.