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November 16, 2015
The fastest Growing Companies in Maine

Apothecary by Design finds growth in the specialty pharmacy field

Photo / Tim Greenway
Photo / Tim Greenway
Apothecary by Design principals Catherine Cloudman, Tom Madden, middle, and Mark McAuliffe in a lab at the company's Preble Street headquarters in Portland.

Apothecary by Design

141 Preble St., Portland

Founded: 2008

Top leaders: Mark McAuliffe, Catherine Cloudman, Tom Madden

Sales growth 2012–14: 193%

Employees: 100

Contact: 899-0663 www.apothecarybydesign.com

Five questions

How would you describe your company's core mission? Through innovative pharmacy practice, Apothecary by Design aims to improve the quality and affordability of health care for the people we serve. That means patients. We also serve health care practitioners, the organizations that pay for health care and even the manufacturers of medications that make good health possible.

What were the key factors in your company's growth? We have delivered high levels of satisfaction among patients and clinics, which in turn has led to referrals and more business. We've benefited from the confidence and support of others, including the Finance Authority of Maine, Bangor Savings Bank and the city of Portland. Finally, we've been aided by the growth of the specialty pharmacy market and legislation that allows us to compete with mail-order pharmacies and large chains.

How have you adjusted to the rapid growth? Apothecary by Design has made significant investments. We've hired staff, added a new facility in Portland, built out our infrastructure and successfully completed the rigorous process of accreditation by two of health care's leading standard-setting organizations.

Do you have plans to hire additional employees? Yes. We're actively seeking new team members now, and expect hiring to continue.

What can we expect for 2016? Through the partnership Apothecary by Design recently formed with BelHealth Investment Partners, we anticipate acquiring other pharmacies strategically located on the East Coast and in the Midwest, focused on disease states that complement our strengths in women's health and other areas. And we'll continue to grow in Portland.

Apothecary by Design co-founder Mark McAuliffe clearly remembers a day when the company was not growing.

"We were struggling as a startup. I remember Trader Joe's opened up across the street and cars were lining up. We were like, 'We're here — hello!'" says McAuliffe, a principal.

The Portland company is Maine's fastest growing company in the large-company category, with sales growth of 193% from year-end 2012 to year-end 2014. In those years, sales revenue grew from $30 million to $32 million to $90 million, it says. While this was not a consideration for the award, Apothecary by Design is going through even more growth for this year, projecting sales of $165 million. Its workforce grew from 28 in 2012 to 100 today.

Apothecary by Design has its headquarters at 141 Preble St. and a retail store at 84 Marginal Way. It is a specialty pharmacy. Much of its sales are driven by specialty and "complicated" medications, which are by their nature higher in cost. Its specialties include women's health, Hepatitis C, HIV/AIDS, autoimmune disorders and infertility.

A drug aimed at the symptoms of Hepatitis C is partly responsible for the company's rapid growth, but also it's indicative of the depth of specialty. Treatment for Hepatitis C runs $30,000 for a standard 30-day program, which works out to $1,000 a pill. The cure rate is 95%, versus 40% with traditional treatments. Health insurance often covers the majority of the cost, but even the co-pay can be daunting.

"We provide advocacy for the patient. There is often prior authorization needed [before the prescription can be filled] and extensive criteria that must be met," says Catherine Cloudman, another principal at the company.

The past year has seen great change. Apothecary by Design won specialty pharmacy accreditation from URAC, an independent accreditation organization based in Washington, D.C. It has also set up some of the policies and procedures needed to help it grow. In August, Apothecary by Design received a "substantial" private equity investment from New York-based BelHealth Investment Partners.

Currently, 40% of Apothecary by Design's business is from out of state. With the BelHealth investment, in the next 18 to 24 months, Apothecary by Design expects to expand to at least one other East Coast location and one location in the Midwest. The sites will be in states with similar regulatory climate as Maine, and serve as not only pharmacies but distribution hubs, each staffed by 10 to 20 workers of all skill levels. The investment also makes the company more competitive with pharmacy benefit managers, some of whom have mail-order outlets.

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