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  • Kevin Cast

In specialty, does size matter?

Considerations for selecting the right specialty pharmacy network for your product

It’s a great time in healthcare history to be marketing specialty drugs. Today there are hundreds of specialty pharmacies in the U.S., offering diversity in location, service level, and specialization.

However, market consolidation and service commoditization have altered the composition and focus of specialty pharmacies, even though the primary goals have remained the same. The game has changed, and it’s vital for brand and market access teams to understand the evolving playing field.

The good news is that pharma companies are enjoying the power of choice.The bad news? There are so many options that selecting the right network for your unique product is more complicated than ever.

When determining the best specialty pharmacy network, start by considering:

  • What are the unique needs of your product?

  • How crowded is the market? (How many drugs for the same indication are already on the market?)

  • What are the nuances of the disease state? (Managing multiple sclerosis is different than managing oncology, which is different than managing pulmonary hypertension, and so on…)

Your answers to those questions should put you in one of two categories:

Go big or go home. If market access in a highly competitive disease state is a top concern, bigger may be better. The BIG 3 SPs offer an ease of access, provide great service, and have tons of experience managing multiple disease states.


Good things come in small packages. If customization, high-touch nursing support, and concierge services are vital, the boutique-type services of a smaller SP may be a better fit.

Once you figure out if your brand fits better with a big or small approach, the next step is to fully understand if going all in on that approach is the right fit for your brand, or if a customized mix minimizes your risks in a way that makes diversification a smarter approach.

To pressure test your network decisions, consider:

  • What are the benefits of selecting a smaller SP network and excluding the BIG 3 SPs? What are the risks?

  • What are the benefits of including the BIG 3 SPs with the smaller SPs? What are the risks?

  • What are the benefits of selecting a BIG 3 SP network and excluding the smaller SPs?What are the risks?

These answers should narrow your options and guide you to a network framework that will allow you to begin the RFP process and select the best individual pharmacies to support your brand.

The nuances of the specialty marketplace are vast and complicated. Unfortunately, the wrong decisions can prove to be a costly hindrance to brand success. That’s why we’re here to help. Archbow Consulting has decades of experience matching specialty products with the right networks. Contact us to start building the best SP strategy for your next product.

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