Home-delivery pharmacy AllianceRx Walgreens Prime is jumping into the oncology space with its new clinical assessment feature that lets cancer patients digitally manage their self-administered therapies.
Specifically, the new feature lets patients with oncology conditions refill their prescriptions online as opposed to over the phone. The way it works is patients can log in to their account and select the oncology medications to refill and then answer questions about their experiences with the medications. They will be prompted to answer questions about their habits adhering to medication instructions, side effects from the medications and other related queries.
After the patient fills out the required information the system will either be able to process the refill or patients will be told to talk to a pharmacist. The first-time patients fill a prescription they do have to call a pharmacist.
This capability is an add-on to AllianceRx Walgreens Prime, which created a similar capability for people living with chronic inflammatory diseases, multiple sclerosis, cystic fibrosis, idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, organ transplants and lipid blood disorders.
WHY IT MATTERS
The oncology space is large and growing. According to the CDC, between 2010 and 2020 the number of cancer cases in the U.S. increased by 24% in men and 21% in women.
The company is pitching this feature as a way to ease pharmacist burden and make refills easier for patients to access.
"Providers receive updates based on discontinuation, non-adherence, side effects and other feedback patients provide through the tool," James Adams, chief information officer at AllianceRx Walgreens Prime, said in a statement. "And, payers will know their members can spend less time on the phone and instead, refill their medication when it's most convenient for them."
THE LARGER TREND
AllianceRx Walgreens Prime was created in 2017 when retail pharmacy Walgreens teamed up with PBM Prime Therapeutics. But today, it isn’t the only digital pharmacy offering home delivery for medications.
One of the biggest deals in the space came in 2018 when tech giant Amazon bought digital pharmacy PillPack for just under a $1 billion. There has been a lot of venture funding in the space as well. Virtual pharmacy Medly scored $100 million in Series B funding earlier this year; Alto announced a whopping $250 million Series D round; and Capsule scored $200 million in funding in 2019.
While many patients have turned to home-delivery services during the coronavirus pandemic, the services have had a few bumps in the road. In August, several Democratic politicians alleged Postmaster General Louis DeJoy’s recent changes to the U.S. Postal Service led to delays in services.
In response, patient and medical professional organizations expressed immediate and long-term concerns about the 1.2 billion prescription drug shipments handled by the USPS annually.
ON THE RECORD
"Based on patient-reported events, such as side effects, an escalation pathway will alert our pharmacists if they should speak to the patient," Adams said in a statement. "Our pharmacists review all assessments that have created an escalation pathway and will outreach to the patients prior to dispensing the medication."