According to the American Journal of Managed Care (AJMC), “Specialty drugs represent the fastest growing sector of pharmacy spending today.”
What are Specialty Drugs?
The AJMC article from February 18, 2013, (“The Growing Cost of Specialty Pharmacy—Is it Sustainable?”) states that, while there is no universal definition for specialty pharmaceuticals, common criteria include drugs that “treat a rare condition,” require “special handling”, “ongoing clinical assessment” or “limited distribution” and/or cost more than $600 per month.
Conditions or illnesses treated with specialty medications include HIV, cancers, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis and growth disorders. The AJMC states that in 2012, almost 300 pharmaceuticals were classified as specialty drugs compared to only 10 in the year 1990.
“Specialty pharmaceuticals intersect all distribution channels, including, specialty pharmacies, hospital, retail, infusion, home health care and managed care organizations,” states the Specialty Pharmacy Certification Board (SPCB), a non-profit organization which administers the Certified Specialty Pharmacist (CSP™) credential.
Specialty pharmacies may be stand-alone, or in other cases, retail chains and community and institutional pharmacies have created specialty pharmaceutical departments.
Specialty Pharmacy Technicians
According to SPCB, pharmacy technicians that work in specialty pharmaceutical settings fill an important niche. “This role is uniquely differentiated from other pharmacy technician services due to the administrative and clinical complexities associated with specialty medications,” says the SPCB.
“In many situations, technicians are involved in a variety of additional activities such as: patient onboarding, order entry, patient care coordination, and cold chain distribution and shipping activities.”
As a result, the SPCB is initiating a feasibility study to determine whether certification for specialty pharmacy technicians will be supported by the pharmaceutical industry. A variety of pharmacy stakeholders will be surveyed to uncover whether there is significant interest and support in a possible Certified Specialty Pharmacy Technician™ (CSPT™) credential. Such certification may coincide with standardizing specialty pharmacy technician educational programs.
In a recent press release, the President of the SPCB, Gary Rice, is quoted as saying, “This is a unique opportunity to align specialty pharmacy stakeholders and pharmacy technician teaching institutions to ensure that current and future specialty pharmacy technicians are better equipped to meet the demanding roles and responsibilities of one of the fastest growing areas in pharmacy.”