Jackson-based company made Inc. 5000 list again this year
Clifton Osbon is president of Jackson-based Transcript Pharmacy Inc., which made the Inc. 5000 list again this year as one of the fastest-growing privately owned U.S. businesses. The company ranked No. 116 in the health industry and earned approximately $25.2 million in revenues in 2010. Osbon earned a pharmacy degree from The University of Louisiana at Monroe and then worked in business management and in consulting before he and a business partner opened Transcript Pharmacy in 2003. He and wife, Donna, have two daughters.
Q — What does Transcript Pharmacy do as a “specialty pharmacy?”
A — A specialty pharmacy typically offers services to patients who are going to be on less commonly prescribed drugs or require a lot of counseling and education. Clinics in (the 17 states in which we work) know our representatives who call on them, and they order from us by fax. We research patient benefits and help secure insurance approval. Then patients get started on (drug) therapy with us. We provide pharmacist counseling before we ship the drug, explaining how the drug is to be used. We offer a nurse at our expense to go out and teach the patient how to take shots. The patients are on (drug) therapy, depending on their disease, from six months to forever.
They are typically very high-cost drugs. The average prescription in the United States today is $70 or $80 between the patient co-pay and the insurance payment, and the typical prescription in a business like ours is going to be more in the $2,000 range per month.
Q — For what illnesses do you most often provide medications?
A — Organ transplants, hepatitis C, rheumatoid arthritis (but only when it’s treated with certain biotech drugs), psoriasis, Crohn’s Disease. We provide a drug for premature infants at risk for pulmonary infection.
Q — How did y’all decide to go into this business?
A — Originally, our market analysis showed us that there were unmet needs for patients with organ transplants living in a five-state area. So we began first to work with those patients in ’03 and began in late ‘03/early ’04 to work with patients with hepatitis C in the clinics that treat them. From that point we began to develop expertise in a new disease state every year or so over the last seven years.
Q — How many patients do you have
A — In a typical year there will be several thousand. Some months we have referrals for 300 or 400 patients.
Q — Why can’t patients get these drugs from the typical pharmacy on the corner?
A — That’s a good question. Because these drugs are so rarely prescribed, we have to work in a large geographic area. Just in Jackson there would not be enough patients to support our business model. So we’re working in 17 states. We’re going to carry drugs in stock that most retail pharmacies aren’t going to carry. For instance, hepatitis C — a standard treatment now is about $20,000 per patient per month. An independent pharmacy in a small town might not want to keep those in stock until they have an order for a patient. We, on the other hand, would probably have several hundred thousand dollars of some products on hand. Those are ready for the physicians to order today.
The other thing that retail pharmacies typically don’t do a lot of is benefits investigation and prior authorization assistance to help the clinic and patient find out if drugs are going to be covered by their insurance and help secure the paperwork that the clinic needs to go through the approval process. You can imagine an insurer needs to be cautious if they’re going to cover drugs that are going to cost $5,000 or $20,000 a month.
Q — Do you see the specialty pharmacy as being a growing niche market?
A — It is. Seventy percent of the drugs that are in research and development right now are specialty pharmacy type drugs. Over the next 20 or 30 years there will be fewer and fewer drugs approved that are taken orally and produced in factories the way they have been over the last 50 or 60 years. So retail pharmacies will have fewer new drugs to dispense. Specialty pharmacies will have more.
Q — Competitors?
A — There are other pharmacies like ours that are what we call pure play specialty pharmacies, so they do exactly what we do. Also, the major payers out there that pay for drug claims and own their own specialty pharmacies or are aligned with one. A major prescription payer — like a company called Express Scripts out of St. Louis, which pays for about one-third of all the prescriptions in the United States — processes claims for insurance companies. Sometimes they will force a patient to use the pharmacy they own for the drugs to be covered. We believe that patients should be free to choose a pharmacy, and we’ve actually taken legal action on that in the past.
Q — Revenues?
A — This year we’ve had some really nice growth. We’ve had 58 percent growth over the last six months — several million dollars in sales.
Q — To what do you attribute the growth?
A — First of all, there are more people being treated with these drugs. We’ve grown as a company, so we’ve hired more representatives. We used a local company called RightWay Technology to help us build an information technology tool to help us manage our business better. They did a great job, and that’s allowing us to work with more patients without having to add corresponding numbers of employees. Our business only competes on service. The drug that we dispense is the same no matter what pharmacy it comes from.
Q — What is better about Transcript Pharmacy’s service?
A — One thing I’d say is direct access to employees. If a patient or a nurse calls here, you always get a live answer within four rings. That’s a live transfer to the right person within the building. After hours we have an on-call service where someone can be paged if a person has an emergency need. Direct access to people (as opposed to) a complicated phone tree that makes patients want to give up.
More on Osbon:
Favorite movies: Anything with De Niro, Duvall or Morgan Freeman
Favorite Foods: Soul Shine Pizza and fried chicken
Favorite book: “Les Miserables” by Victor Hugo
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