For some patients with medication that requires unique equipment or administration, an average pharmacy isn't equipped to do the job.
Baptist Memorial Healthcare has opened a specialty pharmacy at the hospital's East Memphis campus at 6025 Walnut Grove. The facility makes it easier for patients who take specialty medications to get the care they need.
A growing percentage of patients take specialty medications, which are often prescribed for such chronic health conditions as AIDS, autoimmune diseases, cancer, heart disease or hepatitis. These medications require special manufacturing, administration and management.
“Many of these specialty medications require special storage like a refrigerator and special training to the patient, for instance if it is a self-injectable,” said Jillian Foster, system pharmacy administrator for Baptist Memorial Health Care. “Because the medications are very expensive, a lot of time the prescription insurance company prefers or even requires that they be dispensed from a specialty pharmacy.”
The pharmacy is the first of its kind for Baptist and serves a Mid-South footprint.
The pharmacy’s dedicated pharmacist and technician provide education, counseling, support and help monitoring and managing medication use and costs for patients, who have the option to pick up their medications or have them delivered to their home.
“Our pharmacist knows our physicians and their nurses personally, and he also has access to our electronic medical records with each patient’s medical history,” said Foster. “So that really gives us a benefit over other specialty pharmacies, and makes ours more of a comprehensive service.”
According to The Pew Charitable Trusts Specialty Drugs and Health Care Costs fact sheet, specialty medications now account for approximately 38 percent of total medication expenses, and that number is expected to grow as new medications and treatment regimens are introduced. In 2015, Pew estimated nearly 700 of the medications were under production and 300 were on the market compared to only 10 being available in 1990.
“In the past patients might’ve had to take time off of work to come in and receive lengthy infusions,” said Foster. “And while there are still very good treatments that need to be given by infusion, it’s really great for patients to have some of these oral options that can be taken at home or injectables that can be administered at home allowing them to be more productive in life.”
Baptist also has a variety of other pharmacy services that are complementary to the work that its physicians do, like a retail pharmacy, home infusions, and onsite infusions.