According to the American Pharmacy Purchasing Alliance, the specialty pharmacists are in high demand, as the niche within the larger pharmaceutical market is growing. “This niche focuses on dispensing high-cost specialty medications for rare, chronic, and complicated health conditions, including cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, hepatitis C, and HIV,” the association said. “Specialty pharmacies are on the rise because they help with proper drug administration and patient education and contribute to better compliance and better patient health.”
The National Association of Specialty Pharmacy (NASP) is a national association representing the specialty pharmacy industry–pharmacies that handle some of the costliest and most difficult-to-administer medications. The NASP offers education programs to prepare pharmacists to transition to specialty roles.
The organization has launched “NSAP University” and a certificate program to help to advance specialty pharmacy practices and train specialty pharmacists. The program offers the only Certified Specialty Pharmacist (CSP) Credential in the nation. According to the NSAP, the Certified Specialty Pharmacist Credential is designed to help pharmacists:
- Validate their professional experience and expertise
- Elevate the status of the specialty pharmacy profession
- Differentiate specialty pharmacists in a competitive job market
- Become qualified to handle limited or exclusively distributed drugs
- Protect patients by improving clinical outcomes and reducing medication errors
- Better manage payer requirements
- Demonstrate a commitment to continued professional development
The certification program requires that participants pass a CSP Exam, and offers test prep in addition to the regular curriculum. The prep course covers exam topics that include: Intake, Clinical Management, Fulfillment, and Outcomes. Expert faculty present key areas of specialty pharmacy and the specialty pharmacist’s role. Other topics include the fundamentals and considerations for the patient intake process, as well as fulfillment workflows, quality assurance, and dispensing channels. Outcome measures and standards are covered, and clinical modules review persistence and adherence, specialty drug classes, indications, and interactions.
The next CSP exam will be held in October, and a prep course will be offered at the NSAP Annual Meeting held September 18-20 in Washington, D.C. The Annual Meeting brings together executives, pharmacy directors, staff pharmacists, consultants, and other personnel from specialty pharmacy providers, infusion pharmacies, pharma/biotech manufacturers, institutional pharmacies, managed care organizations, GPOs, distributors, and suppliers to the industry.
The Academy of Managed Care Pharmacists (AMCP) offers a 10-week program through its AMCP Foundation on medication management. While this is not directly in a specialty pharmacy, it may allow exposure to many of the high-cost medications and how they are managed.
Why Specialty Pharmacies
Specialty pharmacies are growing in size and scope, in part because an aging population requires more specialty drugs like infusion therapies for cancer treatment. These drugs are expensive and often require special training to be administered and to be used by the patient home. Often the medications also need to be stored under specific conditions. Because misuse can be costly, many insurers pay for the high-touch service so that errors are minimized.