Who will represent the specialty pharmacy business?

February 1, 2013

As the business grows at double-digit rates, representing its interests becomes its own business opportunity

You know that an area of business activity is reaching a certain level of maturity when trade or professional organizations spring up to address the particular needs of that activity. A land-rush sprint is occurring right now as new groups form up to corral the businesses associated with specialty pharmacy. The latest is the Specialty Pharmacy Assn. of America (SPAARx), being launched by Armada Health (Florham Park, NJ), which in turn is self-styled as the “industry's largest specialty-pharmacy group-purchasing and contracting organization.” Armada, which has held a client meeting called the Armada Summit for the past nine years, is essentially converting that event to the first SPAARx meeting. The 2013 Armada Summit is being held in Las Vegas during May 7-10.

Around the same time, a group called the National Assn of Specialty Pharmacy (NASP; Odessa, FL) announced that it would be holding its inaugural meeting in conjunction with the Academy of Managed Care Pharmacy (Alexandria, VA) at the latter’s 2013 Annual Meeting (April 3-5; San Diego; the NASP/AMCP meeting will immediately precede that event). NASP has some cross-management with the founder of the Specialty Pharmacy Journal; its acting executive director is Mike Nameth, former EVP managing Walgreens’ specialty-pharmacy business.

Last year, the Pharmaceutical Care Management Assn. (PCMA; Washington, DC) separated out its Specialty Pharmacy Business Forum from a PBM Summit for the first time; this year, that Forum will be held on March 26-28 in Las Vegas. PCMA is the association of the bigger pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs), most of whom have a specialty subsidiary or division. Then there is the Pharmacy Benefit Management Institute, an individual-member group for benefit managers and healthcare purchasing executives; its 18th Annual Drug Benefit Conference, being held Feb. 18-20 in Las Vegas, will include a specialty-pharmacy component; its program brochure declaims, “The Specialty track was such a huge success last year that we have incorporated two specialty tracks along with a traditional pharmacy benefit track for 2013.”

On the pharmacy professional side of the street, the American Pharmacists Assn. (Washington, DC) has had a Board of Pharmacy Specialties since 1976; the BPS, in turn, has collaborative arrangements with groups like the Hematology/Oncology Pharmacy Assn. (most of today’s specialty pharmacy business is focused on oncology), psychiatric or nuclear pharmacy and some other specialties. Arguably, a “specialty pharmacist” might or might not work at a “specialty pharmacy;” the latter is more an identification of a business structure, rather than the professional training of its staff.

It remains to be seen whether Armada Health will be able to pivot what is essentially a client meeting into an independent organization; the company says that it is in the process of setting up a board of directors and intends for the association to be vendor-neutral. On the other hand, with attendance at its upcoming meeting expected to top 2,500, it is already pulling in many of the participants in the specialty-distribution channel. One thing is for sure—Las Vegas is going to host many pharmacists this spring!