Sep 22, 2016

When you have a chronic and high risk health condition, such as rheumatoid arthritis or hepatitis C, you may need specialty medicine. Here’s a primer to help answer some of the questions you may have about this type of medicine and what makes it so special. 

What is specialty medicine?  

Specialty medicine helps treat chronic and complex conditions such as cancer, HIV, multiple sclerosis and other rare conditions that don't respond to traditional therapies. Medicine may be in pill form, or it could be an injectable that requires refrigeration and special storage.  

Due to the complexities surrounding specialty medicine and the special handling that comes with it, specialty medicine is usually obtained through a specialty pharmacy, like Humana Specialty Pharmacy. Treatment may be long term or short term—depending on the severity of the illness. Patients may need approval from their insurance plan before starting a treatment.  

How to take specialty medicine 

Patients may need to take specialty medicine by infusion, injection or orally—often on a strict schedule. Specialty pharmacies often have nurses and pharmacists on staff to guide patients throughout their treatment. Treatment can get very complicated and may require a combination of different medicine to be taken daily, weekly or monthly. 

Counseling and support for patients 

Before filling a prescription, specialty pharmacists and nurses review a patient’s health history with their doctor to make sure there aren’t any adverse interactions or allergic reactions to the medicine. They check for potential side effects and work with doctors on alternative medicine if needed.  

Lori Grebe knows firsthand what it’s like to treat patients with a complex condition. As a managing pharmacist at Humana Specialty Pharmacy, she works with patients to monitor their health and make sure the specialty medicine is working for them. As she states, "These can be pretty serious disease states that impact their quality of life in general, so this type of medication is very important for them. There's a lot of counseling and continuous monitoring that needs to happen while they’re on those therapies."

Financing specialty medicine 

Specialty medicine is in a whole new class of drugs that uses advanced biotechnology methods. This is why they tend to be very expensive. However, there are financial aid programs available to those who need it. These programs are usually from drug manufacturers or non-profit organizations to help pay for the high cost of treatment. Specialty pharmacies can help research these financial programs for patients. 

How to get started 

If you've been prescribed a specialty medicine, call our specialty pharmacy to get started: 1-800-486-2668 (TTY: 711) Monday to Friday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. or Saturday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., Eastern time. You can also order your specialty medicine online and order refills through the Humana Pharmacy mobile app.  

Sign in to your Humana Pharmacy account and select "Start a New Prescription" under "My Prescription."  

Download the free Humana Pharmacy mobile app and select "Refills" under "My prescription" to refill your specialty prescription.*  

*Note: data fees may apply with the use of the mobile app.