The Ins and Outs of Limited Distribution Specialty Drugs

In many drug product releases, especially in the world of specialty pharmaceuticals, manufacturers will often limit the number of specialty pharmacies that can dispense its medications. Pharmaceutical manufacturers will determine this distribution strategy based on product characteristics, patient education, market reach, and administration and dispensing characteristics.

On the surface, one may view restricting access to a product counterproductive to the bottom line. However, by digging a bit deeper, the potential benefits and reasons why manufacturers choose this route start to become clear. 

All About the Patient
One of the hottest buzz phrases in the pharmaceutical industry today is, “the patient journey.” Everyone involved in the care of the patient wants to understand how the they move through the health care system.

The process, as well as the patient relationship with stakeholders along this pathway, is referred to as the patient journey. Pharmacy is a very important segment of that patient journey, therefore, pharmacies and manufacturers want to impact the patient journey in the best possible way. 

By doing so, patients are more adherent to medication, more involved with their therapy, and more satisfied with their treatment. In turn, manufacturers and pharmacies benefit as well. When deciding to include a pharmacy in a distribution network, a manufacturer will look for factors that positively differentiate the pharmacy, as well as factors that will likely help the target patient population.

For example, if a specialty pharmacy specializes in oncology products, that pharmacy may provide better medication adherence tracking, patient follow-up, patient education programs, financial assistance programs, etc. By contracting with a pharmacy that can aid in producing positive outcomes, the patient experiences better health outcomes. In other words, limiting a network to pharmacies that can provide high touch clinical care is preferred over a larger network with pharmacies that are not as proficient at these services.

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