Data is valuable currency to your biopharmaceutical company. It can tell you how well your new specialty drug is working for patients—and point out ways to make it work even better. The best way to gather this data is by partnering with a specialty pharmacy.

In his blog post, my colleague Brandon Tom wrote about how your biopharma company can benefit from working with a specialty pharmacy. He explained that specialty pharmacies are in a unique position to monitor patient response to your drug. And he stressed the need to work with a pharmacy that has great data collection and reporting capabilities.

I agree with Brandon. And I think he’d also agree with me that data is just a lot of numbers unless your biopharma company knows what to do with it. In this blog post, I’ll show you how to use specialty pharmacy data to ensure your therapy’s clinical and financial success. You can use the data from specialty pharmacies to:

  • Drive the commercialization and brand strategy of your drug
  • Demonstrate the value of your drug to health plans and other payers
  • Strengthen your relationships with prescribers and other providers
  • Improve outcomes by enhancing the therapeutic value of your drug

How high-touch services create data opportunities

First, let me tell you where that data comes from. Specialty pharmacies perform a number of patient management services for you and the prescriber. These services fall into three areas along the continuum of care:

  • Utilization review. The specialty pharmacy makes sure that your drug is the right drug for the diagnosis. It makes sure that the dose is the right dose. And it goes over other drugs and checks for potential adverse interactions.
  • Patient counseling. The specialty pharmacy checks a patient’s medical history and documents the disease state and symptoms. It teaches the patient about your drug and how to take it. And it identifies adherence barriers and removes those barriers before the patient starts your drug.
  • Follow-up care. The specialty pharmacy follows your patient’s progress. It assesses the patient’s response to your drug and works with providers to update the care plan. It notes side effects and resolves them. It monitors adherence and discontinuations. And it reports any adverse events.

As you can see, specialty pharmacies have a lot of control over how patients access and use your drugs. That puts pharmacies in a great position to gather information. Each time a pharmacy touches your patient, that touch is a chance to collect an invaluable piece of data for your biopharma company.

A wealth of information is available to you

Specialty pharmacies collect clinical and financial data. Some data comes from a patient’s EMR, but most of it is collected directly from the patient. This data can be provided by phone, by email and by text.

Pharmacies use clinical assessments to guide their talks with patients, which is also one of the main ways they collect data. There are data capture points within those conversations and these assessments are customized to match each disease and drug. By using these assessments, the pharmacies collect the same data points from each type of patient on each type of drug consistently over time.

Technology is also making it possible for patients to electronically report their experiences and outcomes directly to specialty pharmacies. Electronic patient-reported outcomes systems—or ePROs—let patients use their laptops, tablets, smartphones and even pill-bottle sensors to send in their data.

So which data elements can be most helpful to your biopharma company? As I mentioned, they fall into two buckets: clinical and financial.

On the clinical side, your specialty pharmacy can uncover the following data:

  • What other drugs are your patients on?
  • What other medical conditions do your patients have?
  • How adherent are your patients to your drug?
  • What side effects or adverse events are patients experiencing with your drug?
  • Are those side effects expected or unexpected?
  • When do those side effects occur along a course of therapy?
  • What actions did the pharmacy take to control those side effects?
  • How many times do your patients go to the hospital or emergency department?
  • How long are patients on your therapy?
  • How are patients responding to your drug?
  • What are the reasons when patients discontinue your therapy?

On the financial side, your specialty pharmacy can determine the following:

  • What is the payer mix of the patient population taking your drug?
  • How is each payer covering your drug?
  • What is the average co-pay a patient experiences?
  • What payer formularies include or exclude your drug?
  • How much copay assistance do your patients need to access your drug?
  • How much financial help do foundations give to your patients?
  • How many patients require free drugs?

Specialty pharmacies collect all of this information and send it to a data aggregator. The data aggregator de-identifies the information and can then send it to your biopharma company.

Using data for the success of your therapy

Now, the question is what you can do with all this information. Here are four ways you can use this data for your benefit.

1. Improve commercialization

Data related to drug outcomes is essential in your commercialization plan. How well does your drug treat the disease it was prescribed for? If it performs better than a competing drug for the same disease, that’s information you can share with patients through advertising. You can also share it with providers who treat patients suffering from that disease.

Discontinuation data is also important from a commercialization and brand strategy standpoint. Let’s say the data tells you that patients stopped taking your drug because they have too many pills to take in one day or over a course of treatment. You may be able to reformulate your drug, reduce the pill count and improve adherence.

2. Demonstrate value to payers

The data you collect from specialty pharmacies can help you demonstrate the value of your drug to health plans, pharmacy benefit managers, employers and other payers. These buyers want the best outcomes for the lowest cost.

In this situation, data on hospitalizations and emergency department visits can be useful to your biopharma company. Let’s say your drug and a competing drug produce the same outcomes. But, with your therapy, fewer patients need hospital or emergency care, because it has fewer side effects. Lower hospitalization and emergency visit rates mean lower long-term costs for patients on your medication. That’s value for payers.

3. Build brand loyalty with prescribers

For prescribers, the value is outcomes, and outcomes depend on adherence. The data you collect from specialty pharmacies can tell you why patients aren’t taking your drug. The issue could be cost, for which financial help is the answer. It could be side effects, which pharmacies can help control. It could be pill fatigue, which pharmacies could relieve through counseling.

The data flags the causes of nonadherence and points you to a solution. Better adherence leads to better outcomes. And better outcomes strengthen your relationship with prescribers and build brand loyalty to your drug and your biopharma company.

4. Strengthen your drug’s therapeutic value

Most importantly, the data collected by specialty pharmacies can improve the therapeutic value of your drug and lead to better outcomes for patients. Your drug is out there in the real world. It’s no longer in a controlled clinical trial setting with a narrow group of patients. You need data to tell you how things out of your control are influencing the efficacy of your drug in a new patient population.

Those factors can be other drugs, social determinants of health, other medical conditions, unknown or unmitigated side effects, and time on therapy. Maybe the efficacy of your drug peaks after a certain amount of time. Maybe your drug is effective at treating an additional condition or subset of patients. You can use all this information to improve your therapy for patients who depend on it—and it all starts with the data that specialty pharmacies collect.

Related: Learn more about McKesson’s specialty pharmacy services for drug manufacturers

Ann Steagall

About the author

Ann Steagall is Director of Clinical Policy at Biologics. In her role, she leads the clinical oversight committee, manages the development of care plans and clinical assessments, facilitates training for clinical and non-clinical team members and collaborates with the biopharma business development team on new therapy launches. She has over 25 years of experience in nursing, focusing most of her career in oncology. She earned her bachelor’s degree in nursing and social work from Mars Hill College.

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