When a Marketing Professional Attends a Specialty Drug Conference

Emily Torgerson  •   October 1, 2018

Last month, I attended the Pharmacy Benefit Management Institute (PBMI)’s 2018 Specialty Rx Forum in Minneapolis, Minnesota. As a communications professional who usually only attends marketing conferences, I was concerned a lot of the topics might be over my head. I was pleasantly surprised to encounter some familiar faces and interesting, easy-to-understand perspectives from industry leaders on specialty pharmacy issues.

The day began with an overview of challenges presented by specialty medications and how they’re changing the pharmacy benefit manager model. The opening speaker stressed how the strategies used to control specialty spend under the pharmacy benefit (prior authorization, utilization management, etc.) may not work under the medical benefit, and how coordination between the two is key.

The next session was one I found most valuable — a multiple sclerosis (MS) patient and a leading national neurologist shared challenges they face concerning specialty medications. Rita, who has MS, spoke of the unpredictability of her disease and how sometimes, a relapse can put her on bedrest for months at a time. A high utilizer of specialty drugs, Rita stressed how important it is to have access to health care. The neurologist emphasized the problem with cost, access and regulatory approval. I was shocked to learn obtaining prior authorization may require extended time and could be the reason for a patient like Rita ending up in a wheelchair. Since I have an autoimmune disease myself, I found hearing the voice of the patient beneficial.

The second half of the conference centered on the employer’s perspective and solutions to manage specialty drug costs. As additional advances in medicine are found, employers need cost saving solutions and more transparency to know exactly where their dollars are going.

The day ended with a presentation on gene therapy, a topic I’m familiar with. There are currently 1,400 unique genetic drugs in development and their challenges include the high cost, clinical management and distribution fulfillment. Attention must be given to the patient’s needs and appropriate administration of care.

I’m grateful to work for a company like National CooperativeRx that believes in educating its employees to the highest degree. Writing is my passion and I think words are more believable if the author believes in the subject. I attended the PBMI Specialty Rx Forum to gain knowledge about current trends in the industry so I’m better able to educate our members. I’m excited to see where the next conference takes me!

To see National CooperativeRx’s recommendations for managing specialty drug costs, click here.