New medicines, virtual care and a patient-centred approach are at the heart of this period of transformation.
As the COVID-19 pandemic subsides in 2022, the demand for innovation will increase. Pharmacists are expanding their field of activity, filling the gaps in care created by a shortage of well-trained oncologists and nurses.
Oncology pharmacists understand the need to gain expertise in virtual care and complex treatments to close education and information gaps caused by overburdened oncologists and other healthcare providers. They also take on the role of advocates for generic or lower-cost options for uninsured or underinsured patients.
A growing number of oncology pharmacists are also shifting to more high-value, patient-centered roles in response to trends that will continue to remodel the market in 2022 and beyond.1 These pharmacists will play a critical role in shaping the future of oncology pharmacies growth in a more strategic way. As a result, more oncology pharmacists will embrace new revenue streams based on patients’ needs for proactive care coordination and convenience.
New oncology drugs and personalized medicine
The pharmaceutical industry continues to launch oncology therapies at a rapid pace. With more than 21 new drugs approved for cancer treatment in 2021, the industry broke the record of 20 cancer drug approvals set in 2020.2 There has also been a rapid acceleration of precision medicine, giving oncology pharmacists the ability to choose a drug and dose based on patient-specific genomic factors.
In addition, clinical trial recruitment has shifted to the virtual world, leading to an increase in clinical trials that is likely to continue. This provides the opportunity for more clinical trials and more participating patients who gain greater access to new treatment options.
Oncology Specialist Pharmacy
Oncology specialty pharmacies (SP) will continue to adopt innovative SP management programs designed to better support patient-based drug use plans, optimize selection of oncology therapies, and maximize cost management outcomes. As the demand for evidence-based drug management strategies grows among health plans and prescription benefit administrators, this trend will drive the right choice for cancer therapy.
Rise in digital care
Increased patient awareness and demand for virtual care are driving a shift towards greater reliance on digital technology in pharmacies striving to remain competitive. In recognition of this shift, oncology patients have adapted to telecare and now expect more options, including on-demand remote access to healthcare providers. This enables oncology pharmacies to adapt to technology-driven care.
Over the next 5 years, the global pharmacy automation market is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 7%, with no signs of stopping for the foreseeable future.3 Pharmacies are now tasked with providing more flexible, intelligent solutions.
Industry-wide focus on specialized pharmacy
As SP gains greater focus on all stakeholders, expect comprehensive, specialized services to help cancer patients address not only the challenges associated with the treatment of specialist oncology drugs, but also everyday lifestyle issues associated with missing work, loss of income and dependence on informal carers.
In 2022, key emerging trends impacting the oncology SP market include the continued use and rising costs of specialized agents, the emergence of ultra-high cost specialized agents and cell/gene therapies for rare and orphan diseases, a more focused management of the expensive specialty drug patients to ensure adherence and optimize outcomes, and vertical integration of specialty pharmacies into healthcare organizations. In addition, a greater focus on specialty pharmacy and further integration of its role into healthcare systems can better ensure that specialty drugs are seamlessly accessible to prescribed patients and that drug therapies are monitored for efficacy and adherence.
A patient’s ability to pay for specialty drugs will continue to be an issue as the cost of specialty drugs remains prohibitively high for many patients, further hindering patient accessibility. With patients’ out-of-pocket costs for specialty drugs growing faster than gross domestic product growth over the past decade, another trend will be of greater reliance on customized co-payment programs and innovative financial and technology solutions to to help offset the high cost of cell/gene therapies and other new agents, which can make a real difference to patients and payers.
Cutting out special medicines
In addition, another consideration for the SP space that may impact the market is the foreclosure of specialty drugs from the medical and pharmaceutical benefits, which can help reduce costs, expand specialty drug availability, and improve health outcomes. promote for the patient. To achieve these goals, appropriate drug therapy and usage management programs can be customized and tailored for each plan sponsor.
In 2022, biosimilars will show an upward trend as several additional blockbuster drugs lose their patent protection. The increasing burden of various chronic diseases, such as cancer, cardiovascular disease and diabetes, will continue to fuel the biosimilar market, with affordability impacting market adoption.
Patient-first approach to the pharmacy
In response to all these trends, a patient-first approach to oncology pharmacy – where every care decision is made based on what is best for the patient – allows all stakeholders to connect seamlessly rather than independently. This results in a higher level of continuity of care that strengthens communication, delivers rich data to optimize outcomes and improves the overall patient experience.
Patient-centered, specialist care teams typically include care coordinators, pharmacists, nurses, and other specialists who are all focused on the disease state, patient community, and therapy.3 They deliver tailor-made care coordination and telecare solutions as an extra layer that promotes discussion between the patient, oncology pharmacist and other clinicians.
By including assessments and interventions at key points in therapy, the health care team can better manage adverse events (AEs) and collect real-world evidence about the therapy, the patient’s condition and well-being. All this critical data is then collected for reporting on the results.
A patient engagement strategy also has a multi-layered approach that includes several communication channels such as text, phone, and email. The primary communication strategy chosen should be based on customer preferences and what produces the best response for each patient.
In a world of shrinking options and advanced technology, the patient-first approach offers something that has disappeared from the American health care system: the human touch. By providing a higher level of personalized care, oncology pharmacists can help healthcare providers manage AEs and make sure patients feel heard.
When oncology pharmacists adopt a patient-first approach, they are able to build a deeper relationship with patients and caregivers, providing personalized information, care insights and increased support that leads to better outcomes and a higher quality of life.
- Christie M. 6 trends shaping pharmacy growth and automation in 2022. Cover My Meds website. January 6, 2022. Accessed February 25, 2022. https://insights.covermymeds.com/healthcare-technology/automation/6-trends-shaping-the-future-of-pharmacy-growth-and-automation-in-2022
- Steiber D. Trends in Oncology Pharmacy in 2022. Pharmacy times. February 7, 2022. Accessed February 25, 2022. https://www.pharmacytimes.com/view/trends-in-oncology-pharmacy-in-2022
- Quill D. A patient-first approach. Website about patient safety and quality of healthcare. April 21, 2021. Accessed February 25, 2022. https://www.psqh.com/analysis/a-patient-first-approach/
About the author
Dea Belazi, PharmD, MPh is the president and CEO of AscellaHealth.