Building Special Connections

Asembia CEO Lawrence Irene expands on the specialty pharmacy company’s evolution and its annual summit, the largest US event of its industry

Lawrence Irene, CEO of Asembia | Photo by SeaLight Entertainment

From the start, Asembia was an organization with family in mind. Founded as Armada Health Care in 2004 by brothers Robert and Lawrence Irene and their father, Sandy, Asembia’s focus is in the specialty pharmacy segment and offers comprehensive hub services, pharmacy network management, group-purchasing services, innovative technology platforms, and more.

This is to say, Asembia brings strategic solutions and leading-edge products and services while maintaining a high-touch sensibility. Asembia’s work in the pharmacy industry optimizes patient care and outcomes, while always considering the person behind the technology and medicine. This can be difficult considering the complex specialty therapies in which it works, but the Irene family’s dedication, empathy, and professionalism are paramount in assuring the comfort and health of the patients Asembia can affect. Its patient support and hub services ensure that the optimal patient and prescriber journey is achieved and therapy goals are met. This also includes its specialty pharmacy network, which spans specialty, retail, and health system pharmacies across the country, as well as their full-service group purchasing organization.

Throughout its diverse work, Asembia remains passionate in providing opportunities for the professional growth and advancement of its own employees and other medical professionals. One example of this dedication is the 2017 Specialty Pharmacy Summit, which will be held from April 30 to May 3 in Las Vegas. The annual event is the largest US healthcare conference focused on specialty pharmacy and will feature thousands of attendees, ranging from payers and drug wholesalers to pharma/biotech manufacturers and pharmacy providers.

AHL spoke with Asembia CEO Lawrence Irene about the evolution of Asembia, its goals for the future, and the effect that the Specialty Pharmacy Summit can have.

What were some of your major goals for the organization at its foundation as Armada in 2004?

Lawrence Irene: The main goal was to create efficiencies between pharmaceutical manufacturers and a group of specialized pharmacies and their patients. This was the basis for the creation of the trade class known as specialty pharmacy today.

How have those goals evolved over the years?

Irene: All these years later, the goals remain the same. The company continues to focus on supporting our pharmaceutical manufacturer and pharmacy partners and their efforts to help patients fulfill their specialty medication needs. The solutions, however, are now rooted in technology and trying to solve for efficiency, cost effectiveness, timely delivery, and recording all applicable data points in this high-touch prescription delivery and patient services environment.

What are the most interesting changes that the organization has undergone in its twelve years?

Irene: The industry has changed and so have we, including our brand. This year we rebranded our organization as Asembia. The timing was right, and we wanted our brand to reflect the technology-centric company that we have become. We are still anchored by our pharmaceutical relationships as a group purchasing organization, which has helped us grow our pharmacy network to more than 30,000 retail, specialty, and health-system pharmacies nationally.

Over the last few years, the necessity to manage patients taking specialty medications has given birth to the high-touch patient services model (HUB) we provide as well. We have invested in these HUB services as a way to improve patient care through adherence and compliance. We employ pharmacists, nurses, and certified technicians to ensure that patients receive the highest level of care available. Behind all of our services is the backbone of Asembia: the technology.

“We consider Asembia to be at the center of the specialty pharmacy industry, working with all pharmaceutical entities to advance the level of care for patients in need.”

The Asembia1 Specialty Pharmacy Workflow Platform is what connects all specialty entities together. From the manufacturer, the pharmacy, the prescriber, and the patient, Asembia1 is the premier technology solution for pharmacies to provide visibility into the life cycle of a prescription and the standard for capturing all patient interaction. Showcased at the 2015 Specialty Pharmacy Summit, Asembia1 has quickly become the industry standard and is the specialty technology powering pharmacies across the country.

What is Asembia’s place in the specialty pharmacy industry?

Irene: We consider Asembia to be at the center of the specialty pharmacy industry, working with all pharmaceutical entities to advance the level of care for patients in need of these complex therapies. That was true at our founding, on a smaller scale, but within the middle of the industry nonetheless. The industry was in its infancy stages, and we were determined to positively impact the marketplace through our unique services and solutions.

Tell me about the conference Asembia launched, which is now known as the Specialty Pharmacy Summit. What need does it meet in the industry?

Irene: What started as a small meeting of fewer than ten pharmacies in 2004 has become the premier specialty conference and expo event annually. With more than 5,000 attendees and representation by virtually all specialty stakeholders, the summit drives collaboration, education, industry trends, and innovation.

How has the conference positioned both you and your company as leading voices in the industry?

Irene: We have always felt that the Summit acts as an incredible catalyst for industry growth, collaboration, and shared voice. It is hosted by Asembia for the betterment of the industry and the advancement and improvement of specialty care that all stakeholders provide.

Could you give me a rundown of the immediate and long-term future plans for the company?

Irene: We continue to expand our contracting programs and services here at Asembia, and we are also continually investing in and launching enhancements to our Asembia1 technology platform and patient services/support capabilities. The specialty pharmacy industry is constantly evolving, and we too are evolving to keep pace with the incredible innovation this segment of healthcare has been experiencing. We continue to hire talented individuals that have immediate impact here at Asembia and expand our incredible patient support services staff to support new programs and expanded partnerships that positively impact the patient journey.

With new specialty drugs coming to market at a tremendous pace, we understand the importance of providing white-glove service along with end-to-end solutions that will positively impact outcomes for patients. We feel we are strongly positioned to continue to play a critical role in the care continuum in this regard. We look forward to continually building upon our strong partnerships while also developing new ones with leading pharmacies, pharmaceutical and biotech manufacturers, payers, and other industry stakeholders to support patients who require complex therapies.