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August 22, 2018 - MCI launches on-site specialty pharmacy

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MOBILE, AL (8/22/2018) -- Cancer patients on some therapies at USA Mitchell Cancer Institute can now fill uncommon prescriptions at MCI’s new specialty pharmacy.

Specialty pharmacies dispense medicines that are not usually found at neighborhood pharmacies because the drugs are costly, more complicated to administer and not widely available.  The patients who take them also require closer supervision and monitoring.

Carolyn DeMouy 500.jpg“Having our own specialty pharmacy at MCI provides an easy process for physicians to order the oral chemotherapy, interact with the pharmacy team and know that patients are getting the proper drug,” says Theresa McLaughlin, administrator of MCI Clinical Operations, who is overseeing development of the pharmacy.

In 2017, 5,500 specialty prescriptions were written by MCI oncologists.  

In the past, MCI patients who receive oral chemotherapy drugs have typically been referred to out-of-state pharmacies that fill prescriptions by mail, with minimal personal interaction. Offering that service at MCI brings a human touch to the process.

MCI is also responding to a shift in treatment approaches, including the rise of targeted oral oncolytics, she says. Prescribed only since the early 2000s, these medications are a rapidly growing facet of cancer treatment, now including more than 25 percent of anti-cancer therapies in development by pharmaceutical companies. 

While traditional IV chemotherapy has been shown to be effective, it can also damage healthy cells, resulting in side effects such as hair loss. New oral agents target cancer cells more specifically, attacking the malfunctioning proteins that cause cancer cells to grow and spread.  Because these flawed proteins are not found in normal cells, the drugs may have fewer side effects.

The specialty pharmacy fills only prescriptions for oral oncolytics and medications that treat side effects and only those written by MCI physicians for their MCI patients. Prescriptions can be picked up at MCI in Mobile or delivered to patients’ homes.

Patient interaction is a key feature of the new pharmacy. Due to the complexities associated with oral oncolytics, patients require continuous help from pharmacy staff. The pharmacy will employ a pharmacist, pharmacy tech, two PRNs and a patient advocate whose sole function will be to help patients defray the cost of some of the drugs, which can run as high as $25,000 a month.

Says McLaughlin, “I think the pharmacy and the services it provides will become an invaluable resource.”

USA Health Mitchell Cancer Institute is the only academic cancer research and treatment facility on the upper Gulf Coast corridor, with offices in Mobile, Fairhope and Monroeville.

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