University of Florida Health’s specialty pharmacy recently expanded the list of medications it offers and the number of insurance plans accepted, ensuring greater and faster access to complex and hard-to-find medicines for patients with rare, chronic or severe illnesses. The expansion was made possible after UF Health Specialty Pharmacy – Medical Plaza earned accreditation from URAC and the Accreditation Commission for Health Care, two groups that confirm pharmacies and other health facilities operate to the highest standards.
The UF Health Specialty Pharmacy had previously operated on a much smaller scale, offering a limited number of prescriptions and serving a small number of patients.
With more specialty medications coming to the market each year, UF Health Specialty Pharmacy sought national accreditation that opens the door to more complex and hard-to-find medications.
“We’re excited about being able to offer patients faster and wider access to medications while maintaining a strong connection to our pharmacists,” said Suzy Wise, Pharm.D, M.B.A., director of pharmacy for UF Health Shands. “This allows patients to get started with their therapy much sooner.”
Specialty pharmacies carry medications traditional pharmacies do not.
Licensed pharmacists collaborate with a patient’s health care team to offer ongoing consultation, education, monitoring and therapy management, providing comprehensive personalized care, Wise said.
“The pharmacist is in touch with the patient over time to check on how the medications are working,” Wise said. “We’re following a patient care plan to minimize any side effects. We also want to check on the patient’s quality of life and whether they are taking their doses on time.”
The specialty pharmacy cares for patients requiring complicated care, such as those with cancer, autoimmune disorders, rare genetic disorders or other complex conditions.
Some patients do not live near a specialty pharmacy, and it can take weeks or even more than a month for them to get a specialty prescription filled by mail, Wise said.
“Specialty pharmacies are often in another town or even in another state, and many of them work only by mail order,” Wise said. “So, patients can’t come to a physical location to speak face-to-face with a pharmacist to ask questions or receive instructions about a drug.”
Patients can visit the UF Health Specialty Pharmacy to speak directly to a pharmacist. The pharmacy has space set aside for private consultations and to train patients in how to administer medications, since many are injectable.
Wise said the UF Health Specialty Pharmacy – Medical Plaza can get medicine into a patient’s hands in roughly two to three days as the pharmacy team also helps patients with the insurance approval process. Additionally, the specialty pharmacy offers delivery options.
“You can wait weeks or more than a month to get prior authorization, but we can do it in a couple of days,” Wise said.