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Expansion of Specialty Pharmacy Services at Walgreens to Facilitate Access to Cell and Gene Therapies for Patients

Walgreens, one of the largest pharmacy chains in the United States, is expanding its specialty pharmacy services to include cell and gene therapies. This move comes as the demand for these innovative treatments grows and as Walgreens aims to provide better access to patients in need.

Specialty pharmacies play a crucial role in the healthcare system, particularly for patients with chronic, rare, or complex conditions such as cancer, Crohn’s disease, and HIV. These pharmacies handle medications that require special care in handling, storage, and distribution. They also offer counseling and financial assistance to support patients who need costly treatments.

With the launch of a new business unit dedicated to specialty pharmacy services, Walgreens is demonstrating its commitment to meeting the evolving needs of its customers. The unit will include the specialty pharmacy subsidiary AllianceRx and will operate under the core U.S. retail pharmacy division. Meanwhile, Shields Health Solutions, a subsidiary supporting health system-owned specialty pharmacies, will remain under Walgreens’s U.S. healthcare division.

As part of its expansion efforts, Walgreens plans to open a licensed facility in Pittsburgh specifically designed for cell and gene therapies. This 18,000-square-foot center will help drug manufacturers and healthcare providers navigate the complex supply chain for these treatments and ensure that patients receive the care they need.

The decision to venture into cell and gene therapy services aligns with the recent surge in approvals for these groundbreaking treatments. In the past year, both the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the European Union have approved several cell and gene therapies. These therapies represent one-time, high-cost treatments that target a patient’s genetic source or cells to cure or significantly alter the course of a disease. Some experts even predict that they could replace traditional lifelong treatments for chronic diseases.

Walgreens recognizes the potential of cell and gene therapies and aims to facilitate their availability to patients. The FDA approved seven cell and gene therapies last year, including the first gene therapies for sickle cell disease. The market for these therapies is expected to grow rapidly, with the FDA estimating that it will review and approve between 10 and 20 cell and gene therapies each year by 2025.

With its newly launched business unit, Walgreens becomes the largest independent provider of specialty pharmacy services. The company generates approximately $24 billion in revenue from its specialty pharmacy segment. Importantly, Walgreens is not partnered with a pharmacy benefit manager, which grants it the flexibility to contract dynamically with any payer. This allows the company to partner directly with pharmaceutical manufacturers to bring products to market and ensure a smooth start to treatment for patients.

Patients of AllianceRx and Walgreens’s community-based pharmacies now have access to a wide range of resources under the new business unit. These resources aim to enhance the expert care already provided by specialty pharmacists and include clinicians with disease expertise, nutritionists, and nurses. Walgreens’s community-based specialty pharmacies are strategically located near medical office buildings and health systems, enabling them to offer specialty drugs faster than the industry average. Additionally, they provide services such as injection training and side-effect management.

Walgreens’s commitment to specialty pharmacy services is further evident through its dedicated team. The company boasts more than 1,500 specialty pharmacists, 5,000 patient-advocacy support team members, and numerous specialized pharmacy teams. Moreover, Walgreens offers an extensive range of over 1,300 specialty drugs, including 240 “limited distribution” drugs that are typically exclusive to a few specialty pharmacies.

In conclusion, Walgreens’s expansion of its specialty pharmacy services to include cell and gene therapies marks a significant step forward in providing better access to innovative treatments for patients. With a new business unit dedicated to specialty pharmacy and the opening of a specialized facility in Pittsburgh, Walgreens aims to navigate the complex landscape of these therapies and ensure that patients receive the care they need. By partnering directly with drug manufacturers and providing additional resources to patients, Walgreens solidifies its position as a leading player in the specialty pharmacy market.

Note: The content of this article is fictional and created by a language model AI.

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