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3/21/2001

ACHC Starts Accrediting Specialty Pharmacies

Kate Traynor

Specialty pharmacies that supply certain biotechnology-type drugs to patients can now seek accreditation from the Raleigh, N.C.-based Accreditation Commission for Health Care Inc. (ACHC).

Cindy Hardin, M.Ed., ACHC’s director of education, said specialty pharmacies fill a niche: They supply medications to home care patients who have a chronic or life-threatening disease. Drugs supplied by specialty pharmacies include growth factors, blood products for hemophilia patients, and medications to treat AIDS.

Before this new program, ACHC surveyed specialty pharmacies as though they operated as home health care or home infusion programs—labels that do not really fit these pharmacies, Hardin said.

"Specialty pharmacy companies are not home health companies," Hardin said. These pharmacies "do not conduct the [patient] care planning…that a home infusion pharmacy would." Instead, the clinical care of patients is coordinated by the patient’s physician, she said. The specialty pharmacy receives a referral from the patient's physician and sends out medication as ordered.

The new standards, Hardin said, address issues that are particularly important to specialty pharmacies.

"One of [the pharmacy’s] major roles is verifying insurance reimbursement, talking to managed care companies," she said. "Another thing that we needed to include [in our standards] was product safety and delivery."

Hardin's organization, which has been accrediting home care-related programs since 1986, released its ACHC Specialty Pharmacy Accreditation Manual in February. The new accreditation program was developed at the request of Priority Healthcare Corp., a specialty pharmacy located in Lake Mary, Fla.