Looking Back at Another Blockbuster Asembia Meeting

The annual Asembia Specialty Pharmacy Summit has become the largest meeting in the specialty space, and this year it exceeded prior numbers in attendance and offerings in programing. Asembia, best known for its annual summit but also for its pharmacy network, hub services and technology solutions, has also established itself as a group purchasing organization (GPO) focused on specialty pharmaceuticals. 

Networking with others in our industry has become the No. 1 activity at the Asembia summit, by far, with seemingly every available space occupied at both the Wynn and Encore hotels. It seems only the casino was spared. There were nearly 100 educational seminars spaced out over the 4-day event. When we started SPT® nearly 10 years ago, we foresaw a shift in the focus of research and development efforts from traditional to specialty therapies, so with the pharmaceutical industry indeed headed in this direction, Asembia has become the “must-attend” meeting for pharmacy.

Highlights
To gauge how strong the attendance was at this year’s event, all you had to do was try navigating the crowd during the summit’s grand reception. A lap around the pool (not in it) created a welcome opportunity to visit many new and friends. Not only has the event grown around programming, but it has further expanded to include much of the investor community, technology, distributors, and anything and everything that touches the specialty channel. And those are just the attendees who were visible at the event. Every suite was occupied with private meetings. Taking the elevator up to a meeting suite at the Wynn often drew a line with all the activity. What is great is that all sides came together in the spirit of our beloved profession.

The exhibit hall was sold out again, and it sure has come a long way in just a short time, from table tops to monster displays. The floor is a focal point for many interactions between specialty pharmacy stakeholders, the pharma industry, and service providers. It’s been fun to watch this element of Asembia grow from a handful of booths to a full-blown trade show event. Thank you to those who came by the SPT® booth to introduce themselves and share your insights. It was the highlight of the meeting for me and our staff.

Hot Topics at Asembia
The crescendo of the Asembia conference was the general session. Even with seating for more than 2000 people, if you were not there 15 minutes before it started, then you were left with standing room only. I got there 30 minutes early to secure a good spot in the front. The Wednesday kickoff speakers (Adam Fein, PhD, chief executive officer of the Drug Channels Institute; Lisa Gill, managing director of J.P. Morgan Securities; and Doug Long, vice president of industry relations at IQVIA) outlined several emerging trends for specialty pharmacy:
  • Specialty drugs are the focus of the pharmacy and pharmacy benefit manager (PBM) industries, although the growth of total prescription revenue is slowing down.
  • Bigger independent specialty pharmacies are growing at a faster pace than the overall specialty market.
  • Small independent pharmacies are getting squeezed by the competition and may be looking to sell.
  • Competition is increasing among hospitals, health systems, and PBMs over the specialty market, which has caused these players to look for partnership opportunities.
On this fourth trend, the fastest-growing and most progressive facet of specialty pharmacy has been the emergence of hospitals and health systems. The health-system specialty pharmacy continues to be the most significant segment of the industry. Given that hospitals are where our sicker patients end up, this integrated, collaborative clinical environment is at the forefront of growth. There are a few key drivers, such as 340B pricing or the tremendous shift we have seen during the past few years of community-based physician practices being absorbed by health systems. These large institutions have made significant investments in training, data systems, and payer access. Payers have recognized their value as they have a better view of the overall continuum of care, from inpatient through outpatient into the community.

Many of these hospital networks have combined resources through their collaboration with their GPO and formed key alliances. Manufacturers are seeing the value these large entities can bring to their products, particularly in the infusion space. Keep an eye on Specialty Pharmacy Times® and our Pharmacy Times® Health-System Edition as we refocus our content in the coming months on the emergence of specialty products in this space.

After the kickoff speakers came Scott Gottlieb, MD, former FDA commissioner who is also a physician and investor. He is presently a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, the conservative think tank, and a contributor to CNBC. Gottlieb spoke extensively on his experience at the FDA and the great path that it is on; specifically their core focus on specialty products. Wrapping up the eventful program was Maria Shriver, renowned journalist, author, and former first lady of California. Shriver has received a Peabody Award and was co-anchor for NBC’s Emmy-winning coverage of the 1988 Summer Olympics. Fein did a nice job interviewing her about her passion, The Women’s Alzheimer’s Movement, which she founded. The movement is a global alliance of individuals, organizations, researchers, foundations, influencers, and industry leaders committed to finding out why Alzheimer disease prevalence is higher in women. Shriver believes that by answering the question of why women are disproportionately affected by Alzheimer disease, society can unlock the other mysteries surrounding this condition, and that will lead to a cure for all.

Award-Winning Continuing Education (CE) Programs
Kudos to our own Pharmacy Times Continuing Education™ team for staging 15 programs offering over 30 credits of CE and, as usual, a great list of topics. In addition to the sessions that offered CE credits, there were dozens of great topics reviewing technology, law, professional practice, new therapies, and so many more. 

Next Up: National Association of Specialty Pharmacy (NASP) Annual Meeting
We will be in full force at the NASP annual meeting this fall in Washington, DC. The 6th annual meeting will provide comprehensive information regarding all aspects of specialty pharmacy, including the evolution of the market, impact of specialty pharmacy on patients, and national legislative and regulatory policy. The meeting will also include the annual Specialty Pharmacy Law Conference offering CE credits to attendees, plus a 1-day preparation course for pharmacists studying for October examinations given by the Specialty Pharmacy Certification Board for Certified Specialty Pharmacist status. 

For more information, visit naspnet.org/annual-meeting/ and check out our live coverage of the NASP meeting at our new website at pharmacytimes.com.




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