May 13, 2016 – Curant COO, Marc O’Connor, in Managed Healthcare Executive – Late spring signals the top conference in specialty pharmacy every year, the Asembia Specialty Pharmacy Summit, previously known as the Armada Specialty Pharmacy Summit.

1. The absence of the PBMs was noticeable and curious.

Typically Express Scripts and Aetna have a presence at the show that is impossible to overlook. This year I saw or heard very little from these two large PBMs. This is surprising given the arrival of pharma’s day at risk and the significant interest manufacturers expressed in at-risk contracts during the event. Adam Fein, with Drug Channels wrote that three Express Scripts representatives were in attendance, while Aetna sent two.

From my perspective their lack of participation amounts to a wasted opportunity for PBM representatives and healthcare stakeholders in general. The shift to risk-based procurement methodology is going to require absolute alignment between PBMs, payers, manufacturers and pharmacies. The PBM perspective is critical in getting this alignment right.

2. The conference is growing fast.

Asembia 2016 was easily double the size it was four years ago. Officials put the number at over 4,500 registered attendees. This should not come as a surprise given the growth in the specialty pharmaceutical industry as a whole.

According to a recent report from The Pew Charitable Trusts, less than 1% of all prescriptions were written for specialty drugs in 2014, yet they accounted for approximately 32% of total drug expenditures. The Pew report further states, “Utilization rose by 5.8% in 2014 because of increased use of existing drugs and the introduction of new pharmaceuticals. In 1990, only 10 specialty drugs were on the market. Currently, approximately 300 such drugs are on the market, 19 of which became available in 2014 alone. And nearly 700 specialty drugs are under development.”

I believe the term “specialty pharmacy” may slowly disappear and everything will be “pharmacy.” This seems logical given the increasing ubiquity of specialty medications. There was a time when specialty medications meant more than “expensive.” That time, and fee-for-service healthcare, may well be behind us.

To read Marc’s full article, visit Managed Healthcare Executive.

To learn more about Curant Health, contact Kristin Lindsey, Marketing Director, at klindsey@curanthealth.com.