Karmanos Specialty Pharmacy goes above and beyond to ease the burden of cancer

The fight against cancer requires a team of experts and careful planning. We often think of the hardworking oncologists, nurses and physicians who treat patients during their cancer journey. Their roles are vital, but there are many other key players in the battle against this disease. At Karmanos, our Specialty Pharmacy team connects patients to crucial cancer-fighting drugs. Doing so requires knowledgeable service, logistical organization and compassion for each individual.

During his treatment for leukemia at Karmanos Cancer Institute at McLaren Northern Michigan in Petoskey, Gene Hodulik experienced the Karmanos Specialty Pharmacy (KSP) team's exemplary service firsthand.

Hodulik was prescribed a costly drug to help him combat his cancer. He raised concerns about the price of the drug, and the KSP team stepped in to assist. Less than an hour after speaking to KSP, Hodulik received a call from Lynn Stephan, LMSW, a social worker and member of the KSP team. She had identified a grant that could cover a large portion of the drug cost. In addition, the KSP team would assist with the paperwork and registration required for the grant.

"They called and said it was taken care of," said Hodulik. "I didn't have to worry about it. The support was wonderful."

The medications used to treat cancer can often be expensive; some are more than $10,000 each. At Karmanos, we are committed to providing the very best in cancer care, and this extends to our pharmacy services. The KSP team works with drug manufacturers and external funding assistance programs to identify funding for drugs. In 2020, KSP helped secure $1.4 million in external funding for patients.

"Offering the service of assisting with grant funding takes one task off of a patient's plate when they are going through treatment," Stephan said. "I want our patients to spend their time present in their lives. I will take on the responsibility of navigating the financial assistance system so they don't have to. Many of our patients have been battling for a long time, and I do not ever want them to worry that they may have to forego treatment due to the cost."

"Our purpose here is simple: help patients. There are always costs, logistics, red tape and other factors, but patient care is our ultimate focus. Karmanos provides some of the best cancer care around, but all of that care means a whole lot less if a patient can't access their medications," said Greg Bungart, clinical pharmacy specialist. "We have the tools to solve nearly any issue that comes our way. We'll do whatever we can to make things easier for our patients."

The service provided by the Karmanos Specialty Pharmacy extends beyond financial assistance. In Hodulik's case, they also coordinated shipping so that medication could be picked up at a convenient time and place.

"I was being discharged from the hospital, and they made arrangements for my wife to pick up (the medication) from the Pellston airport on her way over. Everything was there and perfect," Hodulik said.

Arranging this pickup ensured that Hodulik could get instructions and have questions answered with his prescription in hand. He met with his oncology team at Karmanos Cancer Institute McLaren Northern Michigan for some follow up guidance and was able to head home.

"Most of our deliveries are pretty simple and relatively mundane, but every now and then, we find ourselves in a situation where we need to get the drugs out much faster or in a creative manner. Whenever obstacles arise, we are determined to find ways to overcome them. Whether it is shipping medication to a friend or family member's home because a patient won't be home to receive the package or sending it to any one of our numerous network sites so that the patient can start their medication under the supervision of our care teams, we are always looking for new ways to simplify patients' lives," said Bungart. This philosophy was applied in Hodulik's case.

"They took any issues away. The Karmanos team is helpful, kind and sensitive to the needs of patients; they're everything you wish for more," said Hodulik.

Karmanos Specialty Pharmacy carries many hard to find specialty medications for cancer, hepatitis, multiple sclerosis, organ transplant and other conditions. Patients using specialty medications from KSP are supported by Karmanos’ Medication Therapy Management Programs, which provide regular counseling to help ensure the best possible outcome from their treatment. KSP offers a high level of personalized services including free medication delivery, disease management counseling and access to the latest therapies. KSP is accredited by the Utilization Review Accreditation Commission (URAC). Click here to learn more.