General pharmacies are virtually everywhere we look. There’s the big box pharmacy stores that in many suburban areas appear on nearly every corner. Then there’s the general big box stores with their clothing, food and electronics departments that now usually include a pharmacy wing. Then there’s the wholesale membership clubs that feature pharmacies too.
These generalist pharmacies are designed to cater to the most common medications, prescriptions that are most in demand. That leaves a big gap in access for many people who have more unique medication needs. And that’s where a specialty pharmacy comes to the rescue.
A specialty pharmacy is typically a pharmacy that offers less common prescription medications that are used in the care and treatment of chronic, complex or rare health conditions. Because these medications are not as widely used, they are less likely to be in stock at general pharmacies and therefore harder to find. Most specialty pharmacies are delivery-based services rather than in-person pick-up.
But a specialty pharmacy is more than just a resource for hard-to-find medication. In fact, specialty pharmacies are so much more. Beyond their specialized stock, specialty pharmacies also:
Take a greater role in a patient’s care beyond just filling and refilling prescriptions. In fact, they can play an instrumental role in a patient’s disease management team , providing personalized instructions and follow-up communication.
Are equipped to provide special handling, storage and delivery of medications that require specific conditions such as refrigeration. Specialty pharmacies are a source for cutting edge medications, biologies, injections, infusions and medications which must be given at a doctor’s office, clinic or hospital.
Have been designed to serve patients with chronic or rare conditions or diseases
Provide additional patient education and guidance to ensure that every patient understands what they are taking and how to take it. In this way, specialty pharmacies can play a key role in supporting patient medication adherence
Assist patients with insurance and financial assistance options for out-of-pocket costs.
Anyone with a rare or chronic condition may use a specialty pharmacy. But those are not the only patients who benefit from access to a specialty pharmacy. Patients who require medication that demands special handling or is an injectable or infusion will also most likely utilize a specialty pharmacy.
Patients with conditions such as these may also be more likely to use a specialty pharmacy:
You can think of a specialty pharmacy as full-service care compared to the drop off/pick-up model of a local general pharmacy. A specialty pharmacy takes things further beyond just getting you the medication you were prescribed, that’s why it’s often referred to as a “high-touch” experience. Here’s some of the unique features that make a specialty pharmacy different from a general pharmacy:
A specialty pharmacy is equipped to be a partner in your care. They’ll help you to make sure you’re taking your medications at the right time and dosage with follow-up calls and dedicated hotlines. In this way, a specialty pharmacy helps with patient medication adherence. They'll probably follow up with you or your medical team after you start taking them, too.
They will communicate with your health care team and caregiver when necessary.
Many (like Medly) offer 24 hours, 7 days a week, 365 days a year support.
Since some of the prescriptions they fill tend to be costly, specialty pharmacies like Medly can assist patients with affording their medication. This includes offering financial counseling, obtaining pre-authorizations with insurance companies and identifying sources of assistance like pharmaceutical company coupons and rebates.
Each state licenses specialty pharmacies individually. You can talk to your care team or primary care provider to refer you to a speciality pharmacy. Most will be mail order or delivery services, so you can request refills with a phone call or online using a specialty pharmacy’s website or application. Some hospitals or health care systems offer their own specialty pharmacy. Checking with your insurance company can be helpful as they may provide one as well.
Medly is a specialty pharmacy providing all of the benefits including expert care and handling of perishable medications, in-house doorstep delivery and financial assistance through authorization and assistance programs. When in doubt, it’s best to discuss your options with your healthcare provider.