H.D. Smith acquires majority ownership in Triplefin, building out its specialty-pharma distribution business

Distributors, retail pharmacy and others pile into the specialty-pharma services

H.D. Smith (Springfield, IL), the largest privately held, full-line drug distributor in the US, opened up Smith Medical Partners as a specialty-pharma services unit a little over a year ago. Now it is reorganizing that business as HD Smith Specialty Solutions, hiring Joseph Conda, an industry veteran, as president and promoting Tom Doyle to EVP, commercial solutions. A key addition to specialty solutions is a majority-ownership stake in TripleFin (Cincinnatti, OH), a patient-assitance and reimbursement services company, also privately held.

Triplefin had gone through a rebranding exercise late last year, sharpening its focus as a hub service for patient support, including reimbursement assistance, patient education, adherence programs and the like. It also has ancillary businesses in alternative sample distribution, logistics and fulfillment. H.D. Smith, through Smith Medical Partners, provides distribution, support and patient-care services to manufacturers, pharmacy benefit managers and pharmacies; it also provides clinical trial support and telesales for products. “Together, our organizations create an end-to-end service value chain touching many elements of prescription medicine distribution and support,” said Dale Smith, H.D. Smith CEO, in a statement.

Triplefin, if it keeps its individual identity, is going to have to do some reworking of its website quickly—the company touts its position as “an independent company in the face of industry consolidation … not beholden to conflicting interests that can be a source of frustration when working with hub-type solutions.” But in fact, the entire hub/specialty distribution/specialty pharmacy space is in flux, with realignments occurring broadly and new business models being adopted. In the past couple years, acquisitions like US Oncology (by McKesson), Centric Health Resources (by Dohmen Group), and the formation of Cardinal Health Specialty Solutions, and Intellogics (part of Anda) have all been focused on this growing sector of the industry. To a certain degree, hub services are in competition with specialty pharmacies, the latter of whom want to provide the same patient services that the hubs do. Meanwhile, PBMs, especially the industry giants, have one part of their organizations providing fee-based services for specialty product distribution, and another part negotiating prices for the drugs that they purchase on behalf of their health-plan clients.

And all this is occurring in an environment where manufacturers are coming out with more and more specialty products, where FDA imposes (through the REMS program) additional responsibilities on manufacturers, and all drug customers are growing more worried about the mounting costs of expensive specialty drugs. For its part, Smith Medical Partners puts a pronounced emphasis on its ability to “provide flexible offerings that facilitate cost containment and efficiency throughout the supply chain.”