Prescription Drugs for Half the Price: Wellpartner Smooths Way for Clinics to Buy Them

11/5/08Follow @xconomy

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Still, those companies haven’t tried to squash this program with their lobbyists, Wright says. That’s because even though it whittles down their profit margins, selling these drugs at half-off still provides them with a profit, and they’re able to create more demand from patients who otherwise might not get their drugs at all. (I suspect if this program ever really became too popular, pharma’s lobbyists would find a way to kill it.)

For now, Wellpartner sees this as a boon to its business, and a way to distinguish itself from the bigger mail-order pharmacy players like St. Louis-based Express Scripts (NASDAQ: ESRX) or Woonsocket, RI-based CVS Caremark (NYSE: CVS). Wellpartner has tripled its payroll from 35 to about 100 in the past year, not only because of the 340B program, but mostly because it won an exclusive contract to fill mail-order prescriptions for Washington State public employees.

Wellpartner, a private company, didn’t disclose its finances to me, but it does have a reputation for unusual transparency. Piper and Lundin marveled about how the company sends a report on its performance to its investors every day—which struck them as amazing, given how opaquely many private companies try to operate. In a Powerpoint slide the company sent me, a chart says it takes them an average of 23 seconds to answer the phone compared to the industry standard of 40 seconds, and that they fulfill orders on average in 32 hours compared to the standard 48. If they can really keep up that nimble pace, then I suspect the guys at Integra Ventures will see more black ink piling up on those daily reports.

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