Specialty Pharmacy Conditions

What conditions can be treated with specialty medications?

Patients with serious illnesses or complex and chronic long-term conditions often benefit from specialty medications. Click on your condition from the list below to learn how a prescription from Aurora Health Care's Specialty Pharmacy program might help you. In each section, you'll find the answers to the frequently asked questions for each condition.

Learn more about your medications

Product websites can be another great source for information about your prescriptions. If you need help locating those websites or have any other questions or concerns about specialized medicine, feel free to contact the Aurora Pharmacy Department by phone at 844-820-5600 or by email at rx.customer.care@aurora.org.

CANCER


Aurora Specialty Pharmacy caregivers understand that medications for cancer treatment can sometimes be difficult for patients to handle. Because your long-term health and safety are important to us, we take a team-based approach to providing specialized medicine, as well as specialized education, to you and your support team.

The Aurora Specialty Pharmacy team is here to help. We offer expert information on how to:

  • Take your cancer medications correctly
  • Recognize and report any adverse drug events immediately
  • Manage your side effects
  • Successfully remain on your therapy
  • Reach your treatment goals
  • Receive safe, high-quality care

More information about cancer

For additional information about cancer, check out these reliable online resources:

For more information, contact the Aurora Pharmacy Department by phone at 844-820-5600 or by email at rx.customer.care@aurora.org.

Back to Top

CROHN'S DISEASE


What is Crohn's disease?

Crohn's disease is an inflammatory bowel disease, which is the general name for diseases that cause swelling in the intestines. When a person has Crohn's disease, any area of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract can be affected. The disease is not always limited to the GI tract, however. It can also affect the joints, eyes, skin and liver.

What are the symptoms of Crohn's disease?

Symptoms of Crohn's disease may include:

  • Persistent diarrhea (loose, watery or frequent bowel movements)
  • Cramping and/or abdominal pain
  • Fever
  • Rectal bleeding (which, if serious, can lead to anemia)
  • Weight loss
  • Tiredness or fatigue

Who is affected by Crohn's disease?

Crohn's affects both men and women equally, and about 20 percent of people with Crohn's disease have a blood relative with some form of inflammatory bowel disease. Often, this relative will be a brother or sister, but sometimes it is a parent or child. Crohn's disease can occur in people of all age groups, but it is often diagnosed in people between the ages of 20 and 30.

How can Aurora Specialty Pharmacy help with treatment for Crohn's disease?

Aurora Specialty Pharmacy caregivers will work with you, the Crohn's patient, and your care team to manage the disease and reach your treatment goals. We understand that the proper course of treatment for each patient depends on several factors, such as the location and severity of the disease, complications of the disease, the patient's response to previous medical treatment and other treatment options. Treatment can help control the disease by reducing the number of times a person experiences a recurrence. However, there is no cure.

The goals of any treatment of Crohn's disease are to:

  • Control inflammation
  • Correct any nutritional deficiencies
  • Relieve any symptoms, such as:
    • Abdominal pain
    • Diarrhea
    • Rectal bleeding

Options for treatment may include:

  • Drugs
  • Nutritional supplements
  • Surgery
  • A combination of these options

More information about Crohn's disease

For additional information about Crohn's disease, check out the following websites:

For more information, contact the Aurora Pharmacy Department by phone at 844-820-5600 or by email at rx.customer.care@aurora.org.

Back to Top

HEPATITIS C


What is Hepatitis C?

Hepatitis C is a contagious liver disease that results from infection with the hepatitis C virus. It can range in severity from a mild illness that lasts a few weeks to a serious, lifelong illness that attacks the liver.

Hepatitis C is considered chronic when the body can't get rid of the hepatitis C virus. Most hepatitis C infections become chronic. Over time, approximately 60 to 70 percent of people with chronic hepatitis C develop liver disease, and 1 to 5 percent of people get liver cancer or cirrhosis.

What are the symptoms of Hepatitis C?

There are many people with hepatitis C who do not have symptoms and do not know that they are infected. Symptoms of chronic hepatitis C can take up to 30 years to develop, and damage to the liver can silently occur during this time. When symptoms develop, they are often a sign of advanced liver disease.

Symptoms of Hepatitis C may include:

  • Fever
  • Tiredness
  • Upset stomach
  • Loss of appetite
  • Vomiting
  • Light-colored stools
  • Dark yellow urine
  • Joint pain
  • Jaundice (yellowish eyes and skin)

How can Aurora Specialty Pharmacy help with treatment for Hepatitis C?

Hepatitis C is not treated unless it becomes chronic, at which time medications called antivirals can be used to treat many people. Aurora Specialty Pharmacy caregivers, along with your health care provider(s), will consider a number of factors before starting antiviral therapy, such as the condition of your liver and whether you have any other health conditions.

Treatment often involves taking combinations of different antiviral medications that help fight the hepatitis C virus. For many people, medical treatment can be successful and can result in the hepatitis C virus no longer being detected in the blood.

More information about Hepatitis C

If you'd like to learn more about Hepatitis C, we recommend the following websites:

For more information, contact the Aurora Pharmacy Department by phone at 844-820-5600 or by email at rx.customer.care@aurora.org.

Back to Top

HIGH CHOLESTEROL


How can Aurora Specialty Pharmacy help with treatment for high cholesterol?

A new kind of medications called PCSK9 Inhibitors, which lower "bad" LDL cholesterol levels, are available at Aurora Specialty Pharmacy.

The first two drugs of this group were approved in 2015: alirocumab (Praluent) and evolocumab (Repatha). PCSK9 drugs are not for everybody; but for a small group of people who have a gene that causes very high cholesterol, they may work quite well. These drugs may also be useful for those who may not be able to tolerate the more common "statin" drugs. The PCSK9 drugs are injected and they can be used in addition to oral statins to boost benefits.

It's not too likely these drugs will completely change the way doctors treat high cholesterol for most people. The statins – such as atorvastatin or simvastatin – will remain the first choice to treat high cholesterol because they have been studied and shown to be effective through years of clinical experience.

How are PCSK9 inhibitors different than statins?

Unlike statins, which come in pill form, PCSK9-inhibitors are injected as a shot under the skin. While statins work by reducing the amount of cholesterol made in the liver, these new drugs work by pulling cholesterol out of the bloodstream. Your body has molecules that sweep up bad cholesterol. The PCSK9 drugs just help to keep these molecules working longer and harder than they would normally.

Who can benefit from these medications?

People with gene conditions called heterozygous or homozygous familial hypercholesterolemia who are unable to get their numbers down with statins alone face a high risk of heart disease and might benefit from these drugs. The drugs can reduce cholesterol, and the bad cholesterol in particular, by 50 percent more, and that's on top of statin medications.

In early studies enrolling over 6,000 patients, there have been no strong indicators of major side effects. Some of the mild side effects include headache and confusion. Because these drugs are injected, there is also a risk of injection-site reactions, such as redness, swelling or infections in the skin.

More information about high cholesterol

For a trusted resource on high cholesterol, check out the website below:

For more information, contact the Aurora Pharmacy Department by phone at 844-820-5600 or by email at rx.customer.care@aurora.org.

Back to Top

HIV INFECTION


What is HIV?

HIV stands for human immunodeficiency virus, the virus that can lead to acquired immunodeficiency syndrome or AIDS if not treated. Unlike some other viruses, the human body can't get rid of HIV completely, even with treatment. So once you get HIV, you have it for life.

HIV attacks the body's immune system, specifically the CD4 cells (T cells). Untreated, HIV reduces the number of CD4 cells (T cells) in the body, making the person more likely to get other infections or infection-related cancers. Over time, HIV can destroy so many of these cells that the body can't fight off infections and disease. These opportunistic infections or cancers take advantage of a very weak immune system and signal that the person has AIDS, the last stage of HIV infection.

No effective cure currently exists, but with proper medical care, HIV can be controlled. The medicine used to treat HIV is called antiretroviral therapy or ART. If taken the right way, every day, ART can dramatically prolong the lives of many people infected with HIV, keep them healthy, and greatly lower their chance of infecting others.

Are there symptoms of an HIV infection?

Some people may experience a flu-like illness within 2 to 4 weeks after infection (Stage 1 HIV infection). But some people may not feel sick during this stage. Flu-like symptoms include fever, chills, rash, night sweats, muscle aches, sore throat, fatigue, swollen lymph nodes, or mouth ulcers. These symptoms can last anywhere from a few days to several weeks. During this time, HIV infection may not show up on an HIV test, but people who have it are highly infectious and can spread the infection to others.

If you have these symptoms, that doesn't mean you have HIV. Each of these symptoms can be caused by other illnesses. But if you have these symptoms after a potential exposure to HIV, see a health care provider and tell them about your risk.

The only way to know for sure whether you have HIV is to get tested. Knowing your status is important because it helps you make good decisions to prevent getting or transmitting HIV . To find places that offer confidential HIV testing, visit:

  • gettested.cdc.gov,
  • Text your ZIP code to KNOW IT (566948), or
  • Call 1-800-CDC-INFO (1-800-232-4636).

You can also use a home testing kit, available for purchase in most pharmacies and online. After you get tested, it's important to find out the result of your test so you can talk to your health care provider about treatment options if you're HIV-positive or learn ways to prevent getting HIV if you're HIV-negative.

How Can Aurora Specialty Pharmacy help to manage HIV?

If you have been diagnosed with HIV, your healthcare provider and Aurora Specialty pharmacy will work as a team to connect you with the resources you need to manage your condition. Our pharmacy team will work with your insurance company to obtain authorizations needed to ensure that your medications are covered by your benefit plan. We may also connect you with financial help from manufacturers and non-profit organizations, if available.

Many studies have shown that with a near-perfect adherence rate, the viral load in HIV patients is almost undetectable and patients with HIV can lead long, healthy lives. Our pharmacists have the expertise to monitor your therapy, help you manage any potential side effects and avoid any drug interactions so you can use your medication for best results.

For More Information

Check these websites for more information and resources:

Back to Top

MULTIPLE SCLEROSIS (MS)


What is multiple sclerosis (MS)?

Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is an autoimmune disease of the central nervous system – the system that is made up of the brain, spinal cord and optic nerves. A fatty tissue called myelin surrounds and protects the nerve fibers of the central nervous system, and that tissue helps nerve fibers conduct electrical impulses throughout the body. When someone has MS, myelin is damaged in many areas – known as plaques or lesions – and the scar tissue that develops as a result is called sclerosis. When myelin or the nerve fiber is damaged, the ability of the nerves to conduct electrical impulses and tell the body what to do is disrupted.

What are the symptoms of MS?

The range of symptoms in MS varies dramatically from person to person and depends on the area of the nervous system that is affected. The initial symptoms of MS are often blurred or double vision, red-green color distortion or even blindness in one eye. Most people with MS experience muscle weakness in their extremities and difficulty with coordination and balance.

Additional symptoms of MS may include:

  • Fatigue
  • Tremors
  • Changes in speech
  • Loss of bladder control
  • Depression
  • Impairment of pain, temperature or touch senses

How can Aurora Specialty Pharmacy help with treatment for MS?

There is no cure for MS; however, there are specialty medications available at Aurora Specialty Pharmacy that can help you manage your disease. The treatments below might cause side effects, but it is important that a person never change their dosage or stop taking their medication without talking to their doctor or pharmacist.

  • Interferons are a type of treatment that helps reduce the number of exacerbations (episodes) a patient may experience. They may also slow the progression of physical disability.
  • Immunosuppressants and monoclonal antibodies are used to help alter a patient's immune response to the disease.

The goals of MS therapy are to:

  • Improve recovery from attacks
  • Prevent or reduce the number of relapses
  • Stop the disease from progressing

More information about MS

Two recommended resources and organizations available for support, advocacy and information about MS are:

For more information, contact the Aurora Pharmacy Department by phone at 844-820-5600 or by email at rx.customer.care@aurora.org.

Back to Top

OSTEOPOROSIS


What is osteoporosis?

Osteoporosis is a disease of the bones. It happens when you lose too much bone, make too little bone or both. Osteoporosis means "porous bone." If you have osteoporosis, the holes and spaces in the honeycomb-like structure of your bones are much bigger than they are in healthy bones. This means your bones have lost density (or mass) and that the structure of your bone tissue has become abnormal.

Who is affected by osteoporosis?

About 54 million Americans have osteoporosis and low bone mass, placing them at increased risk for osteoporosis. One in two women and up to one in four men age 50 and older will break a bone due to osteoporosis.

What are the symptoms of osteoporosis?

Osteoporosis might be called a silent disease because you can't feel your bones getting less dense, weaker and more likely to break. In fact, breaking a bone – especially from a minor fall or simple actions like sneezing or bumping into furniture – might be the first sign that you have osteoporosis.

Other symptoms of osteoporosis may include:

  • Getting shorter
  • Your upper back is curving forward
  • Your posture becomes stooped or hunched

How can Aurora Specialty Pharmacy help with treatment for osteoporosis?

In addition to seeking medical treatment, there are a few key things you can do on your own to protect your bones and improve bone health:

  • Eat a well-balanced diet, including fruits and vegetables
  • Get enough calcium and vitamin D
  • Exercise regularly
  • Avoid smoking
  • Consume less than 2-3 alcoholic beverages a day

If your health care provider has prescribed medication for your osteoporosis symptoms, Aurora Specialty Pharmacy can help. We carry two categories of osteoporosis medications:

  • Antiresorptive drugs, which slow bone loss
    • Bisphosphonates (e.g., Fosamax, Boniva and others)
    • Calcitonin (Miacalcin)
    • Denosumab (Prolia)
    • Estrogen and estrogen agonists/antagonists
  • Anabolic drugs, which increase the rate of bone formation
    • Teriparatide (Forteo), an injected form of parathyroid hormone, is currently the only osteoporosis medicine approved by the FDA for this purpose

More information about osteoporosis

The website below is a great resource on osteoporosis:

For more information, contact the Aurora Pharmacy Department by phone at 844-820-5600 or by email at rx.customer.care@aurora.org.

Back to Top

PSORIASIS


What is psoriasis?

Psoriasis is a skin disorder related to a person's immune system. It is a chronic disease that causes scaling and inflammation of the skin. This occurs when skin cells quickly rise from below the surface of the skin and pile up before they have a chance to mature. Normally, this process takes about a month, but when someone has psoriasis, it may occur in a few days.

Psoriasis often looks similar to other skin diseases. Therefore, doctors can have a difficult time diagnosing the disease. Doctors will diagnose a person with psoriasis based on their physical exam, and they may also need to take a small skin sample to examine it under a microscope.

What are the symptoms of psoriasis?

The quickened pace of skin cells surfacing results in patches of thick, red and inflamed skin that is often covered with silvery scales. These patches are called plaque, and they are usually itchy or sore. Plaque patches most often occur on the elbows, knees, legs, scalp, lower back, face, palms and soles of the feet; however, plaque can develop on the skin anywhere on the body.

How can Aurora Specialty Pharmacy help with treatment for psoriasis?

Psoriasis treatment depends on a number of factors, including:

  • The severity of the disease
  • The size of the area(s) affected
  • The type of psoriasis
  • The person's response to previous treatments

Some people could benefit from phototherapy – treatments of ultraviolet light that is administered in the doctor's office. This helps decrease inflammation and slow the turnover of skin cells that cause scaling.

Some of the treatment options available at Aurora Specialty Pharmacy are:

  • Topical treatment: This type of treatment is applied directly to the skin and can be soothing to the patient. Many patients respond well to ointment or cream forms of corticosteroids, vitamin D3, retinoids or anthralin.
  • Systemic therapy: Doctors may prescribe medicines that are taken by mouth or injected (for patients who have more severe forms of psoriasis). This can include medicines that help suppress the immune system.

More information about psoriasis

If you want to learn more about treatments for psoriasis, you may find the following websites helpful:

For more information, contact the Aurora Pharmacy Department by phone at 844-820-5600 or by email at rx.customer.care@aurora.org.

Back to Top

PSORIATIC ARTHRITIS


What is psoriatic arthritis?

Psoriasis is a disease that causes scaly red and white patches to develop on the skin. It occurs when the body's immune system goes into overdrive to attack the skin. When the immune system attacks the joints as well as the skin, some people with psoriasis can also develop psoriatic arthritis, which causes inflammation.

What are the symptoms of psoriatic arthritis?

Like psoriasis, psoriatic arthritis symptoms flare and subside, and they vary from person to person. Psoriatic arthritis can affect any joint in the body. It may affect just one joint, or it may affect several to multiple joints. For example, it may affect one or both knees. Finger and toenails may also be affected.

Who is affected by psoriatic arthritis?

Psoriatic arthritis usually appears in people between the ages of 30 to 50, but it can begin as early as childhood. Men and women are equally at risk. Children with psoriatic arthritis are also at risk of developing uveitis (inflammation of the middle layer of the eye).

How can Aurora Specialty Pharmacy help with treatment for psoriatic arthritis?

Treatment for psoriatic arthritis varies depending on the level of pain. Those with mild arthritis may require treatment only when their joints are painful, and they may stop therapy when they feel better. Your health care provider can prescribe the appropriate treatment plan, which may include medications from Aurora Specialty Pharmacy and exercise.

Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen or naproxen, are used as initial treatment. If the arthritis does not respond to initial therapies, disease modifying anti-rheumatic drugs may be used. Biologic drugs are also available, and they can help the arthritis as well as the skin psoriasis.

Many people with arthritis develop stiff joints and muscle weakness due to lack of use. Exercise is very important to improve overall health and keep joints flexible. Getting enough exercise can be quite simple. Walking is an excellent way to get exercise. An exercise bike provides another good option, and yoga and stretching exercises can help with relaxation and stress reduction, which is important in reducing flare-ups.

More information about psoriatic arthritis

If you'd like to learn more about psoriatic arthritis, the following websites are recommended:

For more information, contact the Aurora Pharmacy Department by phone at 844-820-5600 or by email at rx.customer.care@aurora.org.

Back to Top

RHEUMATOID ARTHRITIS


What is rheumatoid arthritis (RA)?

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune inflammatory disease that causes pain, swelling, stiffness and loss of function in the joints. It is a condition in which the immune system, which normally protects the body by fighting infections and diseases, targets the body.

When someone has RA, the immune system attacks the tissues that line the joints, which affects their ability to work properly. Over time, RA may damage bone and cartilage in the joints and weaken the muscles and tendons that support the joints.

What are the symptoms of RA?

The symptoms of RA may include:

  • Tender, warm, swollen joints
  • Fatigue
  • Weakness
  • Fever
  • Pain and stiffness lasting for more than 30 minutes in the morning

How can Aurora Specialty Pharmacy help with treatment for RA?

When doctors prescribe treatment for RA, they consider a number of factors, including the patient's health, the severity of the RA, the length of time the patient will take a medication and the medication's potential side effects. Because of these factors, there are a variety of approaches to treating RA, and they are often used in combination and at different times during the course of the disease.

Any treatment plan for RA focuses on:

  • Pain relief
  • Reducing swelling in the joints
  • Slowing down or stopping joint damage so that people feel better and stay active

Treatment approaches may include:

  • Health behavior changes
  • Medications
  • Surgery
  • Routine monitoring

Some medications from Aurora Specialty Pharmacy are used only for pain relief. Other medications, like corticosteroids and disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs), are used to try to slow down the course of the disease. The newest type of medications are genetically engineered to help reduce inflammation and damage to the joints.

More information about RA

For patients with RA, the following resources and organizations are available to provide support, advocacy and information:

For more information, contact the Aurora Pharmacy Department by phone at 844-820-5600 or by email at rx.customer.care@aurora.org.

Back to Top