Walgreens Expands Specialty Pharmacy Services to Include Cell and Gene Therapies

In a move to broaden its specialty pharmacy services, Walgreens announced on Thursday that it will be collaborating directly with drugmakers to offer cell and gene therapies to patients in the United States. This initiative comes as the company launches a new business unit dedicated to its specialty pharmacy segment, which includes the specialty pharmacy subsidiary AllianceRx. The shift aims to cater to the growing demand for such treatments as chronic diseases become more prevalent.

Specialty pharmacies have become a crucial component of the U.S. healthcare system, particularly for patients with chronic, rare, or complex conditions like cancer, Crohn’s disease, and HIV. These pharmacies provide medications that require specialized handling, storage, and distribution to ensure optimal patient care. Moreover, they offer counseling and financial support to assist patients in affording costly treatments.

As part of its efforts to enhance specialty pharmacy services, Walgreens is set to open a licensed facility in Pittsburgh dedicated to services for cell and gene therapies. This 18,000-square-foot center will support drugmakers and healthcare providers in navigating the intricate supply chain for these treatments, ensuring seamless patient care. The decision to expand into cell and gene therapy services follows a notable increase in approvals of these innovative treatments in the U.S. and the European Union.

Cell and gene therapies represent a paradigm shift in healthcare, offering one-time, high-cost treatments that target patients’ genetic sources or cells to cure or modify the course of diseases significantly. Health experts anticipate that these therapies will eventually supplant traditional lifelong treatments for managing chronic diseases. With the FDA projecting the review and approval of 10 to 20 cell and gene therapies annually by 2025, the market for these treatments is poised for substantial growth.

The newly launched business unit at Walgreens is poised to become the largest independent provider of specialty pharmacy services, generating approximately $24 billion in revenue. Notably, Walgreens Specialty Pharmacy is not affiliated with a pharmacy benefit manager, affording the company greater flexibility in engaging with different payers. This allows for direct partnerships with pharmaceutical manufacturers to facilitate product distribution, particularly limited distribution drugs.

Patients of AllianceRx and Walgreens’ community-based pharmacies now have access to a plethora of resources aimed at enhancing their care experience. Clinicians with disease expertise, nutritionists, and nurses are among the specialists available to provide comprehensive support. Walgreens’ community-based specialty pharmacies, strategically located near medical facilities, offer quicker access to specialty drugs along with vital services like injection training and side-effect management.

Walgreens boasts a team of over 1,500 specialty pharmacists, 5,000 patient-advocacy support personnel, and dedicated specialty pharmacy teams. The company’s extensive range of specialty drugs, including 240 limited distribution drugs, underscores its commitment to delivering specialized care to patients. By leveraging its expertise and resources, Walgreens aims to set new standards in the provision of specialty pharmacy services.


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