A conversation with Nitin Sahney, PharmaCord
Pharmaceutical Commerce readers with long memories might recall a cover-story interview with Nitin
You’ve got a long history in the patient support field; tell us about it.
One of my earliest jobs was as a reimbursement specialist at Caremark in the 1980s. In 1993, I was recruited by Cardinal Health to help build a pharma portal business unit called Nexus Health. At the time Nexus was a small part of a $2-billion company; by 2000, it was an even smaller part of a $60-billion company. While the business I was running had tremendous potential, Cardinal was going in a different direction. At the time, the first few specialty products like human growth hormone and multiple sclerosis
As president of the Specialty Care group, and between then and 2015, grew the business unit from $600 million to $2.4 billion. In 2015, CVS Health came knocking. Over these years the patient support space has grown and become very competitive, with the big PBMs and big wholesalers all jumping in. I still had the entrepreneurial drive and chose not to continue with CVS Health.
Now, with PharmaCord, I and my team—many of whom have been with me since the RxCrossroads days—have a blank slate to address patient support the way I believe it should be done. I feel passionate about this space.
What will make PharmaCord different from its competitors?
After leaving CVS Health, I’ve spent a good bit of time talking with people in the industry, and with manufacturers. Although there are many players in this space, my opinion is that they present limited options to manufacturers. Our approach is very straightforward: First, my partner and I own the company—there is no outside capital. That means that we will not be beholden to private equity investors, and can grow at our own pace. Second, we will serve manufacturer clients exclusively in the various disease states. The big PBMs and wholesaler-operated hub services are set up to handle competing products; we believe our clients are better served with exclusive arrangements. Third, we’ve built our company foundation to enable it to scale up and serve major products from top pharma companies; some of our competitors are well positioned to handle orphan drugs (which we plan to do as well) with limited patient populations—but scale up poorly. Finally, we have an experienced team with a proven track record; this is a business where it’s easy to perform poorly and we don’t plan to do that.
These characteristics are what differentiates us. At the same time, we will provide many of the standard hub services: a closed-door pharmacy from which we will deliver prescriptions daily; benefit investigation and verification; free drug and fast-start programs; copay coupons; and adherence programs. An intriguing possibility is to combine our IT capabilities with our patient engagement—it should be possible to service some patients, or some programs, with automated
To sum up, I like to say that “We’re built to scale, and we’re not for sale.”
Isn’t scale simply a matter of how large the company’s call center and case management staff is?
First of all, I think everyone in this business needs to give better recognition to their case
But the key factor in being able to scale is to have the IT system that allows it to happen. We’ve invested millions in a proprietary It system, and it’s designed to address some of the current limitations in this field. Being able to aggregate and report data is critical. Many of the systems
Pharma clients will be able to get reporting, in near real time, of prescriptions and patient status, broken down by ZIP code or sales territory, and perform analytics on that data. And as the system is cloud-based, clients will be able to access data, based on permissions, with their smartphone or mobile device.
What do you see down the road for hub services?
In terms of the drug pipeline, we see lots of opportunity in coming years. Large-molecule biologics will continue to be introduced; biosimilars are coming along, as are