The keys to a successful and impactful partnership: A case study

Pharmaceutical CommercePharmaceutical Commerce - July/August 2016

At a time when the opioid addiction epidemic has received national attention and is at the forefront of new legislation and regulation, a collaborative and successful partnership has evolved in an effort to help curb some of the devastating repercussions.

Smith Medical Partners, a national specialty distributor, saw an opportunity to engage with Adapt Pharma, an emerging pharmaceutical company, which created an antidote for opioid overdoses. Adapt Pharma’s Narcan (naloxone) Nasal Spray is an FDA-approved opioid antagonist indicated for the emergency treatment of known or suspected opioid overdose. Adapt Pharma and the category management team at Smith Medical Partners’ parent company, H. D. Smith, began developing a standard agreement in late 2015 for retail distribution and subsequently, 
the partnership with Smith Medical Partners began.

Both parties saw an opportunity to partner and distribute Narcan to various groups outside the traditional hospital and pharmacy distribution setting. Adapt Pharma had an important product that needed to get into the hands of first responders and community organizations, while Smith Medical Partners had the experience and flexibility to identify specific markets and groups that would be well-suited to administer it.

Together, we agreed on the important fact that distribution should not be limited to pharmacies. Those on the front lines fighting this epidemic, such as first responders, police, firefighters, substance abuse clinics and schools, were the groups that needed straightforward access. In January 2016, we formalized our partnership and launched two notable programs. The first distributes Narcan to community first responders. The other program distributes Narcan to US high schools, with support from the Clinton Health Matters Initiative.

In the few months since we initiated our distribution agreement, we have experienced many successes and challenges, and we have leveraged the know-how of both organizations to find solutions. Smith Medical Partners and Adapt Pharma share the common goal of expanded Naloxone distribution. Yet, as with anything new and innovative, different challenges surfaced and needed to be adequately addressed. The distribution needs of a university, for instance, are often different from those of a substance abuse clinic, so a one-size-fits-all strategy was not always optimal.

As a result, this partnership required flexibility to adapt to nuances and approach each situation differently. Consistent and open communication with Adapt Pharma for proper alignment has been crucial, and is one of the many reasons this initiative has already been so successful.

Beyond flexibility and effective communication, we had to be open to taking risks and stepping out of our comfort zone. We had to find a way to distribute this drug to those outside the traditional pharmacy setting. We quickly strategized a new distribution protocol that carefully considered the end user. Several municipalities have already purchased Narcan. They are excited about the uniqueness of the product and its potential to stop an opioid overdose.

One issue that often arises with pharmaceuticals is liability. We addressed this by ensuring we put Narcan in the hands of those with the appropriate licensing of a medical professional. It is important for companies like ours to do our due diligence and ensure the medical directors purchasing products for their organization have the proper licensing and training.

Another issue we commonly face is related to cost, and access, across different classes of trades. If you walked into a retail pharmacy to purchase the drug today, the product has a certain cost and reimbursement structure. However, the different distribution channels made available for this product allows for pricing that supports the public interest, like that of first responders. Ultimately, this partnership has been a tremendous learning experience as we were able to foster a synergetic relationship with Adapt Pharma. Every day brings new challenges in getting the product out the door and into the hands of the people who need it most, but it also brings the satisfaction of seeing how quickly we have made a difference.

We attribute the success of this partnership to the fact that both companies are flexible and nimble innovators. This allowed us to address unique distribution challenges from the perspective of a small business, and ultimately make an impact at the community level. Working with Adapt Pharma has been rewarding and beneficial, and as they grow, we are excited to grow with them. We take pride in the fact that together we are proactively helping to address a national health crisis.



Bob Rash is Vice President of Smith Medical Partners, a wholly owned subsidiary of H. D. Smith. During his tenure at Smith Medical Partners, he has led the company to substantial growth and expansion of its specialty distribution and third party logistics business. Prior to Smith Medical Partners, Rash launched Health Market International, a software and consulting company, providing services in 20 countries. He earned a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from the College of William and Mary and a master’s in management from George Washington University.



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