The road to cancer recovery includes many stops – at the doctor’s office, at chemotherapy appointments, at the pharmacy. In an effort to make that road a little easier to navigate, The University of Arizona Cancer Center, in partnership with Walgreens, has opened a specialty outpatient pharmacy on site to meet the needs of its patients.
Conveniently located on the first floor of The University of Arizona Cancer Center – North Campus, 3838 N. Campbell Ave., the Walgreens specialty pharmacy offers patients access to prescription medications in the same place they go for doctor’s visits and chemotherapy infusions.
The pharmacy helps The University of Arizona Cancer Center to meet its goal of providing comprehensive cancer care for its patients, said Patti Stumbo, RN, MBA, OCN, the center’s director of oncology services.
“Being an NCI-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center we’re always on the lookout for what is the latest and the greatest and what are other centers doing for patient care,” Stumbo said. “Having a specialty pharmacy was beginning to crop up more and more.”
As a specialty oncology pharmacy, the Walgreens at The University of Arizona Cancer Center – North Campus offers cancer medications that may not be available at typical retail pharmacies. The pharmacy helps the cancer center prepare for the future of cancer care, in which prescription bottles might replace IVs for some cancer patients.
While chemotherapy infusions remain the most common cancer treatment, oral chemotherapy agents – in the forms of capsules, pills or liquids – are becoming increasingly available as an alternative to infusion therapies, and many new oral options are expected to go on the market in the next three to five years, said Rafael Diaz, associate vice president for pharmacy and supply chain at The University of Arizona Medical Center – University Campus.
“The new drugs in the pipeline are going to be oral, so that changes our business from an infusion business to an oral business,” Diaz said.
Although oral chemotherapy has its advantages, such as fewer office visits and fewer IVs, take-home medicines also present challenges, namely patient compliance with treatment, Stumbo said. That’s why the cancer center’s Walgreens offers education and counseling services to help ensure patients take their medications regularly and on time.
“The pharmacists are really keyed into when was the last time patients got their prescription filled, and they know exactly how many pills should have been taken,” Stumbo said. “They’re able to help us ascertain what else can we do, what other information can we provide, to make sure our patients are on schedule.”
Because the Walgreens pharmacists work right in the cancer center, they have easy access to physicians and to pharmacists from the center’s infusion pharmacy, where infusions are prepared, if questions about a patient’s treatment arise, Stumbo said.
The approximately 800-square-foot Walgreens pharmacy carries not only cancer medications but also all the regular medications a patient might be taking, making it a one-stop shop.
Visitors to the pharmacy receive an electronic pager that vibrates and lights up when their prescription is ready. That way, patients have the option of staying in the pharmacy waiting area or heading down the hall to grab a cup of coffee or browse the cancer center’s boutique, Stumbo said.
Those who are unable to travel to the pharmacy during regular hours, which are 8:30 a.m. - 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, can take advantage of mail-order or home delivery services. The pharmacy also has a 24-hour on-call service to answer any questions patients may have about their medications after they’ve left the building.
The Walgreens pharmacy at The University of Arizona Cancer Center is one of about 10 Walgreens collaborations with academic medical centers across the United States. The Cancer Center decided to pursue the partnership after learning of successes of similar successful partnerships at academic medical facilities like The Ohio State University Hospital and Stanford Cancer Center, Diaz said.
-- Alexis Blue