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Inovalon partners with AllianceRx Walgreens Prime in specialty drug business

The new collaboration will decrease the error rate for providers and lower costs for health plans, CEO says.

Susan Morse, Senior Editor

Controlling the high cost of drugs and the prescription market has led to mergers such as Amazon's recent purchase of PillPack and CVS Health's proposal to buy Aetna.

The latest collaboration is a five-year deal in the specialty pharmacy business between cloud-based analytics company Inovalon and AllianceRx Walgreens Prime.   

AllianceRx Walgreens Prime itself came into existence in 2017 when Walgreens, already a specialty pharmacy and mail fulfillment business, collaborated with pharmacy benefit manager Prime Therapeutics, which was started and owned by nonprofit Blue Cross Blue Shield plans. 

Inovalon CEO Keith Dunleavy, MD, said the new partnership is not going head-to-head against Amazon because the specialty pharmacy business is more complicated than the market PillPack addresses.

Amazon's purchase of PillPack will allow the online retailer to mail drugs nationwide, but those prescriptions are for more routine medications, Dunleavy said. 

"High cost conditions are better handled with more attention and specificity," Dunleavy said. 

The specialty drug market covers high complexity treatments and conditions such as chemotherapy and autoimmune diseases. The spend has tripled since 2010, driven by discoveries in pharmacological treatments, the increased application of precision medicine and the rising number of patients with highly complex and chronic disease conditions. 

Specialty pharmacy rose from a $98 billion market in 2010 to $178 billion in 2015. It is expected to continue to expand to an estimated $282 billion by 2020.

It represents half the spend of all drugs, Dunleavy said. 

Because it focuses on high cost treatments, specialty drugs are increasingly important to payers. The collaboration will decrease the error rate for providers and lower costs for health plans, Dunleavy said.

One way it will do this is through speeding up the drug authorization process and reducing time-to-fill. The cloud platform has access to  specific patient data, is connected to hundreds of thousands of health plans and pharmaceutical companies and has connectivity with EHRs and health information exchanges. 

When the collaboration is complete, all of the operations of AllianceRx Walgreens Prime will be run from Inovalon's cloud-based platform.

Twitter: @SusanJMorse
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