Choosing the right pharmacy to administer your Patient Assistance Program involves a number of factors.
As pharma manufacturers look to design or enhance their PAPs, there are several key considerations to evaluate when selecting a pharmacy to administer their program and provide the optimal patient experience in customer service and healthcare.
Safety and Accuracy
The ability to provide the highest standards of safety and accuracy in prescription medication delivery is a key consideration when evaluating pharmacies. Adhering to processes and technology safeguards can significantly reduce order errors and assist pharmacists performing drug utilization reviews, protecting patients from medication-related harm.2
As personalized medicine evolves, advanced medications such as biologics require cold chain storage3 to maintain their integrity. Select a pharmacy that has the advanced processes in place for cold chain storage management and monitoring throughout a medication’s chain of custody. It is equally important that a pharmacy has the capacity to execute at scale and deliver advanced medications to every address in the U.S.
Safety and accuracy protocols can be built into operations to deliver the right medication at the right time to the right person by leveraging prescription fulfillment safeguards such as barcodes and scanning, artificial intelligence. The integration of a medical affairs team into a pharmacy’s organizational structure can also support safety and accuracy. This team is comprised of quality, regulatory, and clinical professionals that perform internal audits, ensure compliance with regulations, and analyze medication data for client and patient education. They perform internal audits, monitor and ensure compliance with regulations, and play an important role in employee development and training. Together, these strategies create a companywide focus on accuracy.
Behind every prescription is a person. By adopting patient-centric logistics and integrating patients’ needs and preferences into operations, pharmacies promote timely, efficient prescription delivery and personalized care. According to research in the Journal of Managed Care & Specialty Pharmacy, these strategies could improve not only patient care but satisfaction and medication adherence as well, enabling patients to manage life-threatening diseases while reducing costs for individuals and healthcare systems.4
Pharmacies that offer opt-in medication tracking services via phone, text and email can provide patients with prescription status updates. It’s important to select a pharmacy that has the capability to transparently track incoming prescriptions. A seamless data flow between the intake teams entering and verifying prescription information and the fulfillment teams preparing the order facilitates trackability of the medication through real-time status updates using digital platforms or live representatives. This can help avoid medication delays and provides insight to patients as to where their order is throughout the process. Additionally, digital tracking platforms can send refill reminders and process refills automatically for continuity of care.
Integrating a delivery setup program ensures the patient or designated agent will be available to receive the medication at the correct address This can reduce waste caused by medications experiencing temperature excursions from remaining outside for extended periods of time that must be replaced. It also offers flexibility for the patient as they can determine which delivery day and even time frame is best for them. Many pharmacies experience significant improvements in the successful delivery of medications with a delivery setup program in place.
Over the past few years, supply chains have experienced an increase in disruptions. Changing weather patterns and more extreme natural disasters, as well as workforce shortages, systems and transportation disruptions, and facility and utility outages all impact the delivery of medications. Pharmacies with measures to protect business continuity — such as having more than one location in different regions — can protect against unexpected events. With duplication of stock, pharmacies can swiftly shift to an alternate supply location and seamlessly ensure medications are delivered on time.
For smaller pharma manufacturers, partnering with a pharmacy that ships millions of prescriptions across all freight carriers offers the added benefit of leveraging better rates than they may be able to secure on their own.
Pharmacist outreach and availability
As innovation drives the advancement of personalized medications, there are often special handling, storage and preparation requirements. Some must be titrated, while others need to be dissolved or administered in a manner that requires the guidance of a pharmacist. Pharmacies that offer patient outreach and education as part of their standard operations can help in this regard. Patient resources may include providing pharmacist contact information through pamphlets mailed with every prescription, speaking with pharmacists by phone, and multiple language and hard of hearing capabilities, as well as working with nonprofits and advocacy groups that are embedded in communities to help patients identify an appropriate PAP.
Compliance with pharmacy boards and regulations
Pharmacy boards and regulations set professional standards for quality patient care. Compliance is essential for pharmacies to protect public health and safety. Medical affairs teams play an active role in ensuring compliance through diversion programs, keeping abreast of evolving laws and regulations, and making sure employees are trained accordingly. A breach in compliance can shut down a pharmacy’s operations, impacting all its PAPs and their patients.
Select a pharmacy that implements best practices for diversion control, has proper firewalls and protection of patient privacy, legal compliance and a business model that can swiftly accommodate changes in local, regional, statewide and national regulations.
By carefully considering the safe, trackable, timely and accurate delivery of prescription medications, as well as available patient resources and a culture of compliance when selecting a pharmacy, pharma manufacturers can ensure patients have an optimal experience when using a PAP to receive medication they wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford.
Micah Benford is Chief Medical Affairs Officer for Medvantx.
1. Witters, Dan. In U.S., an Estimated 18 Million Can’t Pay for Needed DrugsGallup, https://news.gallup.com/poll/354833/estimated-million-pay-needed-drugs.aspx
2. Poon EG, Cina JL, Churchill W, et al. Medication dispensing errors and potential adverse drug events before and after implementing bar code technology in the pharmacy. Ann Intern Med. 2006;145(6):426-434. https://www.acpjournals.org/doi/10.7326/0003-4819-145-6-200609190-00006
3. ASHP, Cold Chain Management Resource Guide, 2022. https://www.ashp.org/-/media/assets/innovation/docs/ASHP-Cold-Chain-Management-Resource-Guide-1.pdf
4. Fernandez et al. Examination of the link between medication adherence and use of mail order pharmacy in chronic disease states. J Managed Care Spec Pharm. 2016. https://www.jmcp.org/doi/pdf/10.18553/jmcp.2016.22.11.1247