Thursday, April 30, 2020

Drug Channels News Roundup, April 2020: Drug Pricing Outlook, COVID-19 Data Tracker, Community Oncology Clinics, and My Favorite Chart of 2020

Rumor has it that Spring has finally reached our worldwide headquarters here in beautiful downtown Philadelphia. (See photo at right.) While we wait to go outside, please enjoy this month’s selection of noteworthy news:
  • The outlook for drug prices
  • A outstanding (and free!) resource for tracking COVID-19 daily data
  • What’s up with community oncology practices?
Plus, I share my favorite chart of 2020 (so far).

P.S. Join the more than 9,200 followers of my curated links to neat stuff at @DrugChannels on Twitter. My recent tweets have highlighted: Prime Therapeutics new gene therapy offering, AmerisourceBergen’s laudable deal with the Justice Department, the Costco/Instacart deal, Rite Aid’s new CEO, clinical trial trends, vaccine pricing, and much more! I have also been tweeting under-the-radar stories about how the coronavirus is affecting drug channels.

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

The Top 15 Specialty Pharmacies of 2019: PBMs Stay On Top

In Drug Channels Institute's list of the top 15 pharmacies of 2019, we show that many of the largest U.S. pharmacies are now central-fill mail and specialty pharmacies operated by PBMs and insurers.

To complement that broader ranking, we present below our exclusive list of the top 15 pharmacies based on specialty drug dispensing revenues. Consistent with our previous analyses, PBMs and insurers have retained their dominance over specialty drug channels, while smaller pharmacies are facing increased competition and profit pressures.

I see upside for specialty pharmacies in the aftermath of the pandemic. This growth will come at the expense of provider-administered drug channels. I expect the top companies’ share will increase in 2020, due to mergers and business transitions among the largest PBMs. However, the increasing role of government payers may create opportunities for smaller pharmacies.

This Friday, I’ll discuss how COVID-19 will affect the specialty pharmacy market during the first of my two live video webinars.

Over the next two weeks, Drug Channels Institute will host two live video webinars: Industry Update and COVID-19 Impact: Retail & Specialty Pharmacies (May 1) and Industry Update and COVID-19 Impact: PBMs & Payers (May 8). CLICK HERE TO LEARN MORE AND SIGN UP. Contact Paula Fein ( for our special promo codes for multiple viewing sites. DCI will donate 20% of all profits from these events to The Center for Disaster Philanthropy’s COVID-19 Response Fund.

Friday, April 24, 2020

Medication Access During Uncertain Times—Improving Provider Workflows to Help Patients in Need

Today’s guest post comes from Miranda Gill, Senior Director of Provider Network at CoverMyMeds.

Miranda reviews how the pandemic affects the ability of healthcare workers to complete administrative responsibilities like prior authorization. She then outlines how electronic automation is helping patients get needed medications while face-to-face interactions are restricted.

Learn more about healthcare IT solutions for providers and patients in CoverMyMeds’ 2020 Medication Access Report, or schedule a virtual meeting.

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Three Early Signs That COVID-19 Could Disrupt the Buy-and-Bill Channel

Will home infusion growth be a long-overdue correction for the buy -and-bill channel or a temporary blip that will soon vanish?

For some time, I have been tracking the evolution of the buy-and-bill system for provider-administered drugs. The data have shown that hospital outpatient departments have been displacing physician offices. Amid this shift, home infusion providers have accounted for a minority of commercial medical benefit spending and a tiny share of Medicare Part B spending.

However, the coronavirus pandemic is triggering new growth in home infusion for buy-and-bill products. Below, I highlight the early signs of a marketplace change. I believe that some of these short-term shifts in the buy-and-bill market will persist even after we have recovered from COVID-19. They may even slow the runaway growth of the 340B Drug Pricing Program.

If not, then I suppose we'll just keep living in a world with limited home infusion over and over.

Friday, April 17, 2020

What Is Payer Intelligence—And How Can It Be Combined With Technology to Enhance Patient Access?

Today’s guest post comes from Scott Dulitz, Chief Strategy Officer at TrialCard. Scott discusses how combining payer intelligence with market-leading technology can enhance patient access.

TrialCard recently acquired Policy Reporter, a healthcare software solutions company that provides payer intelligence to the biopharmaceutical, medical device, and diagnostics industries. To learn more, schedule a demo of Policy Reporter or contact Scott (

You can also register for Trialcard’s upcoming webinar: Leveraging Payer Intelligence in Patient Service Programs.

Read on for Scott’s insights.

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Four Unexpected Ways that the COVID-19 Medicaid Boom Will Affect PBM and Pharmacy Profits

The U.S. economy is in a medically-induced coma. Unemployment is soaring. Companies are teetering on the brink of bankruptcy. It is unclear when our lives will return to their pre-pandemic state.

One thing seems apparent: As people lose jobs and health insurance, Medicaid enrollment will jump, perhaps by as much as 20% to 30%. This will have profound implications for the drug channel.

Today, I focus on how this increase will affect retail pharmacies and pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs). Below, I review Medicaid enrollment trends, how states manage prescriptions, and the factors driving the coming boom in Medicaid enrollment.

As I explain, many (but not all) retail pharmacies will benefit from Medicaid growth. PBMs, however, will not fare as well. Read on and see if you agree.

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Industry Update and COVID-19 Impact: Join Me for Two Live Video Webinars (May 1 and May 8)

This May, join Dr. Adam J. Fein, CEO of Drug Channels Institute (DCI) and the author of Drug Channels, for two live video webinars:
  • May 1: Industry Update and COVID-19 Impact: Retail & Specialty Pharmacies (12:00 p.m. to 1:15 p.m. ET)
  • May 8: Industry Update and COVID-19 Impact: PBMs & Payers (12:00 p.m. to 1:15 p.m. ET)
  • Register for both events (May 1 and May 8)

These events are no longer available.

Dr. Fein will help you navigate this challenging time in U.S. drug channels. These 75-minute live events will be broadcast via Zoom from the new Drug Channels Video studio. See details below.

You can sign up for either one of these crucial educational opportunities for only $300 per site per event. We are offering special pricing of $500 if you sign up for both events.

An unlimited number of people may watch at one location. However, we recognize that it may be difficult to gather your team in one location, so we are offering significant discounts for multiple viewing sites. Please contact Paula Fein ( to get special pricing information for 5 or more locations. If you purchase access for multiple sites, we will contact you for the name and email address of a contact person at each location.

Read on for more information about the events.

To help people affected by COVID-19 and the caregivers who are supporting them , DCI will donate 20% of all profits from these events to The Center for Disaster Philanthropy’s COVID-19 Response Fund. This charity has earned a 4-star Charity Navigator rating and is a trusted philanthropic partner of Google, Coca Cola, UPS, Verizon, and many other organizations. The fund supports preparedness, containment, response, and recovery activities for those affected by the coronavirus and for the responders.


We will help you and your team better understand key industry dynamics and how COVID-19 may alter the industry.

Dr. Fein will share DCI’s latest market data and trends from The 2020 Economic Report on U.S. Pharmacies and Pharmacy Benefit Managers.

Topics for Industry Update and COVID-19 Impact: Retail & Specialty Pharmacies:
  • The key trends for retail and specialty pharmacy markets
  • The new normal for prescription demand
  • How COVID-19 will change the U.S. payer mix
  • Will the 340B program be disrupted?
  • What’s next for specialty pharmacies
  • The outlook for prescription profits
  • The future for the drugstores’ front-end profits
  • New opportunities for pharmacists as providers
  • My reflections on life in a pandemic world and beyond

Topics for Industry Update and COVID-19 Impact: PBMs & Payers:
  • The key trends for PBMs
  • An update on the latest prescription data
  • What the changing U.S. payer mix means for PBMs and insurers
  • The outlook for benefit design
  • PBMs' role in Managed Medicaid
  • More on the 340B Drug Pricing Program
  • Disruption to the buy-and-bill channel
  • Promise and perils of vertical diversification
  • Further reflections on life in a pandemic world

PLUS: Dr. Fein will take your questions during the event. CLICK HERE to submit questions to Dr. Fein in advance of the events.

  • After you register, you will receive an email with the information you will need to access our live video webinar and add it to your calendar. We will also send you reminder emails one day and one hour before the event.
  • Watch and listen via any device with a web browser (computer, iPad, iPhone/Android, etc.)
  • After each event, you’ll receive a downloadable PDF with the event slides.
  • If your plans change and you can’t make it on May 1 or May 8, we will provide an opportunity to watch a replay of the live video events. Unfortunately, we are unable to offer refunds.
  • Pembroke Consulting clients receive free access to the webinar. Contact Tamra Feldman ( for details. We will automatically refund payments from anyone at a Pembroke client who purchases access using their corporate email account.

Thursday, April 09, 2020

Introducing: Drug Channels Video!

In 2006, I launched the Drug Channels website to explore the economics of the U.S. reimbursement and distribution system for prescription pharmaceuticals. More than 30,000 professionals in the pharmaceutical and related industries rely on Drug Channels for timely analysis and provocative, fact-based insights.

Today, I am pleased to announce the launch of our new delivery platform: Drug Channels Video!

You can look forward to:
  • Information and analysis via our new YouTube channel (Never fear. I’ll still be publishing articles on the website every week.)
  • Livestream video webinars (Stay tuned next week for an announcement about our first two events.)
  • Private, live virtual keynotes and remote presentations (Email me to schedule a safe social distancing event for your team.)
  • Online video courses (Coming later in 2020)
Please watch my brief video introduction below. (Click here if you can’t see the video.)

I hope you and your families stay safe and healthy in these challenging times. I look forward to reconnecting with you in person soon.

Tuesday, April 07, 2020

The Latest CMS Outlook for Drug Spending—And How COVID-19 Will Change It

ICYMI, the boffins at the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) recently released their new projections for U.S. National Health Expenditures (NHE). Unfortunately, the coronavirus almost immediately made these predictions obsolete.

It’s still useful to analyze these forecasts for a pre-pandemic examination of U.S. healthcare spending. A few highlights of the 2024 outlook:
  • Total U.S. spending on healthcare was projected to grow, from $3.6 trillion in 2018 to $5.0 trillion in 2024.
  • Spending on hospitals and professional services was expected to grow by a combined $800 billion—more than 60% of CMS’s projected $1.4 trillion increase in U.S. healthcare spending. That’s consistent with historical trends.
  • Net spending on outpatient prescription drugs in 2024 was projected to shrink to less than 9% of total U.S. spending. That would be its lowest level since 2000.
As usual, the actual facts run counter to the popular narrative that drug spending is skyrocketing relative to any other aspect of U.S. healthcare. Of course, the coronavirus will alter these projections. Below, I speculate how COVID-19 and its aftermath will affect healthcare and prescription drug spending.

Prediction is very difficult, especially if it's about the future. Feel free to add your own outlook in the comment section below.