Paragon's Specialty Pharmacy, located at our home office in Plano, has perhaps the broadest reach in the company. We continue to expand the range of our Infusion Centers in Texas, Georgia, Tennessee and elsewhere, but Paragon Specialty Pharmacy prepares and distributes specialty medications to patients nationwide. We sat down with Pablo, manager of our Specialty Pharmacy, and discussed what our incredible pharmacists do every day to put our patients first.
First, what is a specialty pharmacy?
Most of us are used to a standard pharmacy – your local or chain drugstores probably have one. Infusion pharmacies, a step higher in complexity than that, are how Paragon began as a company. More complex still are specialty pharmacies, which specialize in high cost, high complexity, and high dollar treatments.
High cost: Paragon Specialty Pharmacy tends to handle infusion center and home infusion treatments that come at a high price from the manufacturer. Don't let that scare you – we work extremely hard for your insurance to work with us and provide the treatments you need.
High complexity: Medications that our Specialty Pharmacy prepares and distributes may include treatments that require unique conditions before treatment. They may otherwise require monitoring by a physician and team of infusion nurses for possible side effects. "High complexity" also includes treatments for conditions that patients will deal with long-term, or even for life.
High touch: Most therapies provided by our Specialty Pharmacy require very exacting and precise preparation. Same may have more steps to prepare than more common medications. Some even need special packaging and shipping conditions to reach our patients safely.
What does a Specialty Pharmacist do?
In short, a lot. And all of it is to make our patients feel comforted, cared for, and knowledgeable about their treatment.
When he and other pharmacists arrive each day, Pablo says they first check a computer-generated list of prescriptions that have come in for that day. It may sound simple, but it's anything but.
"We look over the list, which includes refills, new patients and more," Pablo said. "We evaluate each prescription on the list, making sure they're accurate and appropriate for the patients they're for."
Each day only begins with this task. Pablo and his team then go through the steps to get medications prepared and packaged, often differing by therapy. Shipments are then sent off to the infusion center, physician's office or home where they are needed.
Communicating with patients
While a significant amount of time is dedicated to handling and physically preparing treatments, Pablo said they spend a surprising amount of time communicating directly with patients. Your corner pharmacy probably does the same when you have a new medication. But because our Specialty Pharmacy deals with treatments given through an IV line or an injection, communication with patients goes a long way toward answering any questions and easing anxiety.
"A lot of patients understandably have many questions about their treatment," Pablo said, "and especially patients who have never received an infusion or done their own injections at home before. So we do everything we can to help patients understand what medicine is going into their body, what it will feel like, and how it will improve their condition."
Pablo and his team also extend Paragon's principle of personalized care to the way they package and deliver treatments. You might think packing and mailing something would be the most simple step, but it's not quite.
Based on those phone conversations with patients, the pharmacists determine what supplies each patient will need to perform their infusions at home. This applies whether the patient is already comfortable with independent infusions or if a home health nurse is still assisting regularly. After supplies are included in the shipment, the pharmacists also ensure the packaging is appropriate for that particular drug. As a "high touch" Specialty Pharmacy, that often means packing temperature-sensitive medications with cold packs, making sure things are packed safely and securely and ensuring the shipping method will be appropriately safe.
Communicating with physicians
One last way the Paragon Specialty team advocates for its patients is by communicating directly with prescribers (patients' physicians) and coordinating your care together. Our Pharmacy works with rare therapies for equally rare conditions every day. As such, our Specialty pharmacists are the experts on how, when and why these therapies should be prescribed.
Pablo said it isn't at all uncommon for a doctor, who may not have to deal with certain conditions or treatments often, to collaborate with Paragon on finding the optimal treatment for a patient.
"Many of the medications we handle are very specialized, and some doctors, often in rural areas, may not need to prescribe them very often," he said. "When a prescription comes in that may not seem appropriate for a certain patient, we'll communicate with the physician's office directly and see if we can work out a better plan for that patient."
Pablo and his pharmacy team also communicate with prescribing doctors to confirm patients' financial information instead of bothering and worrying patients unnecessarily. For example, some treatments handled by Paragon Specialty Pharmacy come at a considerable cost from manufacturers. As such, pharmacists will sometimes check with a patient's referring physician to see if the cost for the patient is likely to be reasonable. The team takes this step even when insurance has already authorized and covered a prescription.
On that note, the Specialty Pharmacy team also handles all of the insurance and benefits verification.
Why do they do it?
Speaking for himself, Pablo said that serving as a specialty pharmacist allows him to flex his natural curiosity while exploring up-and-coming treatments. The Pharmacy provides many therapies on the cutting edge of medical innovation, and possible new specialized therapies are developed every year.
"I like to follow new medications that are undergoing the FDA approval process and research whether or not we'll be able to take those medications on to serve our patients," Pablo said. "These are usually highly specialized therapies for very small treatment populations.
In a greater sense, Pablo and the entire Specialty Pharmacy team do what they do every day to better serve our patients. They break down treatments and make them understandable, do the legwork on insurance verification, and coordinate treatment options with doctors to ensure each patient receives the individualized and attentive care they deserve.