UMass, CommonSpirit among collection of health systems to form new specialty pharmacy alliance

While specialty pharmacies are nothing new, a growing number of health systems are shifting to an integrated pharmacy model for patients who need specialty medications.

Amid rising pressures from payers, pharmacy benefit managers and drug companies, a group of seven health systems—as well as a specialty pharmacy integrator—are teaming up to create their own trade association. The group, called the Health System Owned Specialty Pharmacy Alliance (HOSP), formed to advocate for the interests of integrated specialty pharmacies.

Founding partners include Fairview Health Services, UMass Memorial Medical Center, Baystate Health, Hartford HealthCare, Berkshire Health Systems, West Virginia University hospitals and CommonSpirit Health. The group also includes Shields Health Solutions.

The alliance is also aimed at promoting best practices among integrated pharmacies, Tanya Menchi, executive director of HOSP, told Fierce Healthcare. She is also the director of public policy at Shields.

Specialty pharmacies focus on delivering medications for more complex and chronic illnesses such as cancer, multiple sclerosis or cystic fibrosis. "They often have different kinds of data requirements for manufacturers; they have different types of approval or prior authorization processes for the insurers," Menchi said. 

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More than 25% of specialty pharmacies are now owned health systems, according to HOSP. That trend is driven by an effort to better coordinate care by keep medication management and treatment inside the health system, Menchi said.  

"Issues like access to payer networks, access to limited distribution drugs, patient choice, any willing provider-type laws for pharmacies: Those are the issues that form the universe of issues this group will focus on on the advocacy front," Menchi said.

"Another driver for this is a recognition that while there are other organizations out there (representing different types of pharmacies), there is not one that brings just these folks together in a network of health-system owned specialty pharmacists. And because the integrated model is so new and is growing very fast, there is a need to share best practices and share experiences and learn from each other."