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The Differences Between Traditional Retail and Specialty Pharmacy

If you’re one of the many people who own a retail pharmacy, you may be considering switching to a specialty pharmacy instead. Before you switch, it’s important to consider the differences between the two types of pharmacies that we will outline in this article.

Medications and Conditions

At retail pharmacies, it’s common for the medications dispensed to be related to illnesses that are less severe. Things like the common cold, allergies, and minor injuries. In these cases, pharmacists don’t need to take much time explaining the medications, as most are understood by patients.

Specialty pharmacies, on the other hand, tend to provide medications for more complex, severe, and chronic conditions. Things like hepatitis, organ transplants, cancer, HIV, arthritis, and Crohn’s, to name a few. Dispensing these medications takes more explanation, time, and effort from pharmacists, and because of this regular communication with patients is key in order to maintain support and adherence.

Patient Education

At retail pharmacies, there’s not much of a need for patient counseling because the medications are generally simple, with simple regimens.

Because of the complex nature of the medications dispensed and conditions treated by specialty pharmacists, this is not the case for them. There, much more time is needed for patient counseling and education. In order to encourage adherence and prevent regimen problems, specialty pharmacists need to be involved with medication review, education, and follow-up with their patients.

Financial Counseling

Specialty medications are typically much more expensive than what you find at retail pharmacies. Because of this, pharmacists are commonly involved with the financial aspects of medication dispensing. They can explain the options to patients, along with helping them apply for financial assistance should they need it.

Additional Services

Many specialty pharmacies have services that cannot be found at your typical retail locations. The staff at these pharmacies help providers to coordinate patient benefits, along with monitoring adherence to medication regimens. They can also help with prior authorizations and verify insurance information to make sure that patients receive all of the benefits that they are due.

Your Specialty Pharmacy

Choosing to run a specialty pharmacy is a big undertaking, but as long as you understand the key differences between operating a specialty location rather than a retail location, you’re on your way to making the switch.


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