New research published by the CVS Health Research Institute showed a significant improvement in adherence to specialty medications for patients enrolled in a pilot study evaluating Specialty Connect, CVS Health’s specialty prescription services program. New patients enrolled in the pilot were 17.5 percent more likely to pick up their first refill and existing specialty patients had an 11.4 percentage point improvement in adherence, as compared to a control group. The study was published in the most recent issue of the Journal of the American Pharmacists Association.

“The specialty market is growing rapidly and new high-cost specialty drugs, that were once limited to small patient populations, are now increasingly being indicated to treat many more patients,” says William Shrank, M.D., chief scientific officer and senior VP, CVS Health. “As new specialty medications are introduced, adherence to therapy will be particularly important to optimize the benefit of these very expensive medications. Specialty Connect, combined with evidence-based benefit design and utilization management strategies, can increase the likelihood that the most appropriate patients receive specialty medications and that, once received, they take them as prescribed.”

CVS Health piloted the Specialty Connect program in 115 CVS Pharmacy stores before launching the program nationwide. Patients enrolled in the pilot could choose to have medications delivered to their home or doctor’s office or opt to pick up their specialty medications at their local CVS Pharmacy, while receiving specialized clinical support from CVS Specialty, the specialty pharmacy of CVS Health. Since the program’s launch, more than 100,000 patients have been served, with more than half choosing to pick up their specialty prescriptions at retail.

Specialty medicines treat complex conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis and hepatitis C. Many of these medications require special handling, storage, and administration. In addition, many specialty drugs are only available at select specialty pharmacies to help ensure compliance with required safety and compliance protocols. As a result, patients often have difficulty with the logistics of filling a new prescription for a specialty medication, with as many as one quarter of traditional retail pharmacies unable to fill a specialty prescription without barriers and/or delays. According to company executives, CVS Specialty is the only specialty pharmacy that offers patients a choice of where to get their medicines, either at any CVS Pharmacy location or through mail delivery, which simplifies getting started on a specialty therapy. In addition, the Specialty Care Team provides round-the-clock support and patient care, including symptom management, claims processing and help managing comorbid conditions.

“CVS Specialty is the only specialty pharmacy that integrates rare disease management and coordinated care programs to make it easier for patients to start and stay on complex treatments,” says Alan Lotvin, M.D., president, CVS Specialty and executive VP, CVS Health. “Since we launched Specialty Connect across all CVS Pharmacy locations, we have seen high rates of adherence, and our specialty patients have reported extremely high satisfaction with their service.”