Vets First Choice Acquires Arizona-Based Pharmacies, Expands Footprint

Vets First Choice, a company that serves as an online pharmacy for 30,000 veterinary practices and provides home delivery of medications and wellness diets to pet owners, is continuing to expand its footprint and suite of services it provides veterinary practices, this time via acquisition.

The Portland, Maine-based company, announced that it has acquired Roadrunner Pharmacy and Atlas Pharmaceuticals, both Phoenix-based companies that operate as compounding pharmacies.

Vets First Choice is not releasing financial details of the transactions. (Technically, it’s Direct Vet Marketing doing the acquiring, as Vets First Choice is simply a dba, but I often use the Vets First Choice moniker to avoid confusion.)

Ben Shaw, co-founder and CEO of Vets First Choice

Vets First Choice, which recently closed a $223 million round of equity fundraising, said the acquisitions “are part of a global initiative to professionalize prescription management services for veterinary practices,” according to the company press release.

The acquisitions increase Vets First Choice’s total number of employees by 50 percent, to 750, spread across offices in Maine, Arizona, Kansas, Kentucky, Nebraska and Texas.

The major infusion of capital Vets First Choice announced last month did help enable these acquisitions, Ben Shaw, Vets First Choice’s founder and CEO, told Maine Startups Insider.

“The equity round was important to these transactions, and others,” Shaw said. “We have a big and compelling pipeline of strategic opportunities around the world at various stages of development, and expect that Vets First Choice will be very active in M&A activity for many years to come.”

According to Crunchbase, Vets First Choice has made one earlier acquisition—a company called VetCentric, which offered similar home delivery of medications to pet owners, in 2012.

Of the two Arizona-based pharmacy companies Vets First Choice is acquiring, Roadrunner Pharmacy is the largest. It is a specialty compounding pharmacy, licensed in all 50 states, that employs more than 250 pharmacists, pharmacy technicians, and other service-related staff. Atlas Pharmaceuticals is a new, much smaller company (only seven employees) that provides compounded sterile and non-sterile drugs for in-office use. Compounding is when a pharmacist or physician combines two or more drugs to create a medication tailored to the needs of an individual patient.

“We’re enthusiastic to enable access to specialty pharmacy services via our prescription management platform for veterinarians and patients,” Shaw said in a formal statement included in the company’s release. “The combination of these capabilities helps practices streamline workflow, improve service, and enhance client communication.”

The fact both newly acquired companies are based in Phoenix is not a coincidence. Roadrunner and Atlas are related. Eaton Veterinary Pharmaceuticals Inc., owner of Roadrunner Pharmacy, formed Atlas Pharmaceuticals in 2016 in the wake of a new law, the Drug Quality and Security Act, that created a new type of outsourced compounding pharmacy, known as a 503B facility. Unlike traditional compounding pharmacies, the Atlas 503B facility produces medications under the same FDA current good manufacturing processes that are applicable to drug manufacturers, according to the news release.

“There is a significant need among practitioners for access to quality office-use compounded medications that meet regulatory requirements,” Nancy Costlow, director at Atlas Pharmaceuticals, said in a statement. “By meeting the strict standards set forth by the FDA for 503B outsourcing facilities, we’re giving practitioners peace of mind about quality, and addressing a huge unmet need.”

Read more about startup advancements in Portland, Maine at TechCo

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Written by:
Whit Richardson is a former daily newspaper journalist in Portland, Maine, who has covered business and entrepreneurship for the past decade. He's founder of Maine Startups Insider and currently editor-in-chief of 4Front Publishing, an online news startup covering the nascent legal cannabis industry.
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