Tech DNA
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In a bold move to strategically grow its specialty pharmacy services, Walgreens will offer gene and cell therapies. The company yesterday introduced Walgreens Specialty Pharmacy, a move it says will expand access to care for patients with complex, chronic conditions, and will grow the company’s business. This includes a new Gene and Cell Services Pharmacy and Innovation Center in Pittsburgh.

Specialty medications today account for more than 50 percent of prescription drug spend in the U.S. Gene and cell therapy are two of the most expensive types of treatments available, and approvals of these treatments is increasing. 

In its press release, Walgreens said its goal is to drive “…cost savings and efficiencies in care by uniting the company’s pharmacy teams and distribution network across providers, pharmaceutical manufacturers, health plans and payers.”

“We have the flexibility to contract dynamically with any payer. We can partner directly with pharmaceutical manufacturers to facilitate products to market, including limited distribution drugs, and coordinate closely with providers to ensure patients experience a smooth start to treatment.” said Rick Gates, chief pharmacy officer, Walgreens. 

Walgreens Specialty Pharmacy puts all the company’s such services under one umbrella, including:

  • Gene and Cell Services Pharmacy and Innovation Center—with services and capabilities including managing the complexity of the supply chain, logistics, and financing as well as clinical and social needs management.
  • Four central specialty pharmacies—where pharmacists and care teams across the country work together to dispense medications and help patients manage chronic or rare diseases and conditions. 
  • Nearly 300 community-based specialty pharmacies across the nation – strategically located near medical office buildings and health systems, closely aligning care provision with local physicians, offering patients access to specialty medications faster than the industry average, as well as services like injection training, medication side-effect management, and financial assistance coordination for medications.
  • More than 1,500 specialty-trained pharmacists—and 5,000 patient advocacy support team members and Specialty360 teams that support all specialty conditions and therapies.
  • A growing roster of 240 limited distribution drugs—including 40 narrow networks and 12 exclusive limited distribution drugs.

Once the change is effective, August 1, 2024, AllianceRx Walgreens Pharmacy will become Walgreens Specialty Pharmacy. Patients of AllianceRx Walgreens Pharmacy and Walgreens community-based specialty pharmacies now have access to resources that will build upon the expert care they already receive from their specialty pharmacist, including clinicians with key disease state expertise, nutritionists, and care nurses. 

“When a patient must confront a life-changing, serious health challenge and begins therapy for a chronic or complex condition, our pharmacists are right there to guide and care for them throughout their healthcare journey—from helping them order and take their medication to identifying financial assistance opportunities and working with their doctor and insurance plan to make sure they’re receiving the most coordinated care,” Gates said.

Walgreens says it has seen consistent growth through its subsidiary Shields Health Solutions, its premier health system-owned specialty pharmacy accelerator. Shields “…provides integrated care solutions for local health systems and specialty pharmacy patients, working with over 1,000 hospitals across 45 states.” 

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