Cost of Dispensing Specialty Drugs May Be More Than You Think

To calculate cost of dispensing a prescription, take total annual costs allocated to the prescription department divided by the annual number of prescriptions dispensed. Sounds pretty simple right?
 
It’s a tried and true calculation that works great for prescriptions routinely filled by a community pharmacy. We all know to include all the obvious direct costs such as vials and labels, as well as indirect costs such as rent, insurance, marketing, etc.
 
I recently tried to analyze true cost of dispensing for our specialty pharmacy, which resides inside one of our community pharmacies. As you can imagine, there are multiple points of cross-sharing in many aspects of the business.
 
Determining the true cost analysis of each practice is important, so this cross-sharing poses a great challenge. In the beginning of my analysis, I thought I would just calculate the square footage, calculate number of hours worked, and divide the number of prescriptions filled by each into that calculation.
 
It was during this exercise that I discovered just how much cost is involved in the dispensing process of a specialty drug. I have had numerous independent community pharmacists ask me about our specialty practice. Most of those folks have a community pharmacy and want to implement specialty drugs into it.
 
This article may help pharmacists answer the question of whether to do it or not. It may also help pharmacists who are filling specialty prescriptions to determine a more accurate allocation of expenses or, perhaps, discover expenses they didn’t know existed. To this point, I’m sharing what I’ve learned about finding these hidden costs and including them in our analysis of finding out our true cost for dispensing a specialty product.
 
According to the 2018-19 Economic Report on Pharmaceutical Wholesalers and Specialty Distributors, independent pharmacies are expanding into specialty drug dispensing.1 Smaller entrepreneurial pharmacy owners are proactively pursuing the dispensing of specialty medications. Thirty-nine percent of independent community pharmacies dispense specialty medications. Numerous fast-growing independent pharmacies have transitioned their businesses into a specialty pharmacy focus.1
 
The report found that independents accounted for about one-sixth of the pharmacy industry’s revenues, but equal more than one-third of all pharmacy locations. The report also estimates that by 2022, 47% of the pharmacy industry’s revenues will come from specialty drugs.1 In 2017, it was estimated that specialty drugs accounted for approximately one-third of the industry’s total prescription dispensing revenues.
 
If you read the National Community Pharmacist Association Digest, you will see that your geographical location will influence your business cost and revenues.2 We are located in Austin, Texas, and our community pharmacy has been in the neighborhood for 61 years. The specialty practice, which was established in 2015, currently occupies approximately one-third of the building and has dedicated staff, technology, and inventory.
 
 If you are new to specialty or you are trying to determine exactly what a specialty drug is, I must warn you that everyone has their opinion.
 


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