The Future of Specialty Pharmacy
Growth in Specialty Pharmacy: Navigating the Future of Distribution
Specialty pharmacy image

The practice of specialty pharmacy is increasing, but what exactly does it mean?

Any drug can be considered “special” due to its complicated interactions with the human body. However, advanced technology drives drug development into a new domain.

New “specialty drugs” treat rare diseases, but they come with high costs, varying drug formulations, strict stability rules, and increased patient monitoring.

In fact, many community pharmacies do not have the ability, capacity, or personnel to dispense specialty medications.

That’s where specialty pharmacies come in, equipped to handle the storage, shipping, counseling, pricing, and insurance claims surrounding specialty drugs.

Specialty Pharmacy Market Growth

According to the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation, specialty pharmacy drug spending has increased by 43% from 2016 to 2021, reaching a total of $301 billion. However, only 2% of the population utilizes these medications, demonstrating the cost involved with specialty drugs.

The number of specialty drug prescriptions being filled in a non-retail pharmacy setting has increased by 40%, illustrating the growing importance of specialty pharmacies.

Specialty pharmacy has experienced significant growth in the last 10 years and is predicted to continue growing by 8% annually through 2025.

Exploring the Specialty Drug Pipeline

According to Ray Tancredi, the divisional vice president of Walgreens, 39 new drugs have the potential for FDA approval by the end of 2023, with 28 of them being specialty medications.

Among specialty drugs in clinical trials, there are 39 injectables, 37 oral medications, one inhalation drug, and one topical formulation.

These trial medications focus on the following specialty drug categories:

  • Rare diseases
  • Oncology
  • Gene and cell therapies
  • Biosimilars
growth in specialty pharmacy
growth in specialty pharmacy

The Rise of Biosimilars

Another factor to consider is the increase of biosimilars as biological drug patents are starting to expire. Biosimilar drugs closely resemble their original counterparts.

In 2021, the most used specialty drug was Humira. However, by the beginning of 2023, the market welcomed nine biosimilars for Humira, making the drug more affordable and easier for patients with arthritis and plaque psoriasis to obtain.

The expiration of patents may drive spending in the biosimilar market to reach $36 billion by 2024.

Despite increased spending, the widespread availability of biosimilars could potentially save $100 billion in costs for biologics within five years. As a result, patients everywhere will have better access to life-saving medications and therapies, further increasing prescription volume in specialty pharmacies.

Implications of Specialty Pharmacy

Specialty drugs often treat complex, chronic conditions that require timely medication to maximize patients’ outcomes. In this case, accurate deliveries are a critical component of patient care as six in 10 adults in the United States have a chronic disease, according to the CDC, while 4 in 10 in the country have two or more.

As the volume and spending are bound to increase, specialty pharmacies must be equipped with advanced technology to ensure a smooth and efficient shipping workflow.

In addition, the shift to at-home care means shipping prescriptions to patients’ homes has taken on even greater importance. This, coupled with the rapid pace of pharmacological innovation, means there are more prescriptions to ship than ever before.

Embracing the Future of Specialty Drug Distribution

Here at VPL, we are determined to provide clinically-minded solutions to the ever-changing pharmacy industry.

To that end, we created our prescription distribution, tracking, and compliance solution to ease shipping worries and increase transparency surrounding specialty medication deliveries.

For more information about how our software can help your pharmacy navigate the growth in specialty pharmacy, visit This original blog post is also available at