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Specialty drugs have been a major growth area for pharmaceuticals and are expected to grow even more in the next several years.  Specialty drugs have one or more of the following characteristics:

  1. High cost – generally this is greater than $600 per month as set forth in the Medicare Part D regulations.
  2. Indicated for the treatment of a chronic, rare illness.
  3. Products are usually injectable or infused, although some products (such as oral oncolytics) may be oral or have some other type of administration.
  4. Complex manufacturing process in association with the production of the product (not usually small molecules).
  5. Special storage and handling (such as refrigeration) requirements might be needed.
  6. Complex monitoring for patient compliance, persistency and side effects may be required.
  7. May be covered under the medical benefit, pharmacy benefit, or, in some cases, both.

The FDA is expected to approve a record 25 specialty drugs this year!  Spending in the U.S. on specialty drugs – to treat chronic, complex diseases such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis – is projected to increase 67% by the end of this year.


Source:  Express Scripts

There are a number of models that a pharma company can utilize with the launch (and beyond) of their specialty drug product and companies to date vary in their approach to specialty pharmacy (SP):

  • Some use one specific SP to handle distribution and other aspects;
  • Some use a small group (3-5) SPS to handle distribution and other services;
  • Some have an open network utilizing as many as 10-15 SPs;
  • Some direct all patients and providers through a centralized hub that determines the services and distribution options for the patient and directs them accordingly.

Whether you use one or more SPs in your network / HUB, you might not know what your end-user customers (physicians, nurses, billing staff, patients, etc.) think about those specialty pharmacies.  In many cases, pharma companies set up a network / HUB and just assume it is meeting the needs of their end-user customers.  These pharmacies (and the services they provide – or don’t) reflect on your product, so you need to be absolutely sure that they are meeting the needs of your end-user customers.

It is entirely possible that you launched your product with no research done to determine the effectiveness of the various SPs that are being utilized and how end-user customers perceive their value.

Cadence Research & Consulting can help you to determine customer feedback about each SP in order to understand (among other things):

  1. Do your customers value the SPs in your network?  If so, are there certain aspects they are lacking?
  2. Should you consider eliminating an SP from your network / HUB?  Are there other SPs that you are considering?
  3. What are the services provided by each SP in your network / HUB (benchmarking)?
  4. What services could you add to improve the functioning of your network / HUB?

If we can be of service to you in this area, please contact Greg Hall at We would welcome the opportunity to work with you.


Author Cadence Team

Cadence Research & Consulting is a healthcare communications, research and consulting firm that supports its clients through scientific content development and meeting planning, market research and strategy work. Leveraging a unique business model, Cadence offers a collaborative, high touch, expertise based approach for all its clients. Cadence clients span a broad array of companies within the pharmaceutical, biotechnology, medical device, and health IT segments.

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