Oncology still represents for the biggest share of specialty drug distributor sales volume, based on findings in the 2017 edition of the HDA Research Foundation’s “Specialty Pharmaceutical Distribution: Facts, Figures and Trends” report. An average of 51% of sales are for oncology drugs, followed by 13% for specialty medications categorized as “other” (including renal, asthma and gastrointestinal) and 8% for supportive care products.
“With a U.S. market value of $181 billion as of 2016, specialty product sales now make up 40% of the overall U.S. pharmaceutical market,” HDA Research Foundation chief operating officer Perry Fri said in a statement. “As the market continues its growth, our data provide a robust picture of the efficiencies and unique services provided by distributors in this segment,” added Fri, who’s also executive vice president of industry relations, membership and education for the Healthcare Distribution Alliance (HDA).
The percentage of sales via distributors continued to decline from a year ago for independent physician-owned/operated clinics (from 49% to 45%) and for hospital-owned/operated clinics (from 6% to 2%). Sales to hospitals rose to 35% from 30% in the prior year, and specialty pharmacies edged up to 8% from 6%.
These changes reflect hospital consolidation and acquisition of independent physicians, payer and PBM reimbursement strategies requiring drugs to be dispensed through a specialty pharmacy channel, the rise of oral oncolytics (dispensed at retail or specialty pharmacies, or delivered by traditional distributors) and a shift in reporting methodologies, according to the foundation’s report.
Distributors surveyed each ship to more than 27,000 unique locations, with independent physicians accounting for the bulk of these ship-to points. Almost 6,000 specialty pharmaceutical lines are picked daily, and specialty distributors have a nearly 99% fill rate. An average of 1.6% of specialty drug SKUs is returned annually.
Given that many specialty drugs are formulated for populations with chronic or rare diseases and typically require special handling, storage, transport and regulation, distributors often provide key services for safe, efficient delivery. For example, 80% of distributors surveyed think overall cold chain compliance and temperature monitoring are rising in importance. They also report providing a range of professional services, communications and marketing activities.
Primary data for the 2017 Specialty Pharmaceutical Distribution report was collected via a survey of HDA-member specialty distributors, most which report specialty sales exceeding $1 billion. Data reflect the 2016 fiscal year or the most recently completed fiscal year. Secondary research is included from leading health care organizations, including IQVIA (formerly QuintilesIMS). Sponsors of the study include CuraScript SD, Genentech, Value Drug Co., Pharmacy First, Sensitech and Smith Drug Co.