Each day, Integrity RX, a fertility specialty pharmacy in Scottsdale, ships packages of 15 to 20 prescriptions to patients across the country. But to Jeffrey Karp, who founded the pharmacy three years ago, each box contains more than a list of medications.
“I don’t look at them as packages,” he said. “Those are dreams. Those are babies, children, legacies.”
When UPS and FedEx pick up those packages, “they’re picking up people’s hopes and dreams for the future,” he added.
Karp received his doctor of pharmacy degree from the University of Arizona and served his post-doctorate residency at the University of Texas. While there, his emphasis was in clinical psychopharmacology. It wasn’t until he was working at a friend’s pharmacy after graduation that Karp started researching infertility medications to help another friend whose wife was undergoing fertility treatment.
“I wanted to do everything I could to help my friend and his wife succeed,” he said.
He read up on it and “when I was dispensing the medication to him and his wife, I was able to give him the best information I could.”
At the time, he was trying to find his place in the pharmaceutical world and found that working with fertility patients immediately clicked.
“I couldn’t think of anything better, day in and day out, than helping couples have babies, using my pharmacy background to maximize their chance,” Karp said
His friend’s pharmacy eventually became a national specialty pharmacy and Karp worked there for 15 years, developing the company’s local and national fertility business. After it was purchased by a private equity fund, there were several personnel changes and in mid-2012, Karp left the company.
While observing a restrictive covenant, Karp received calls from former doctors and patients requesting his services. That’s when the idea of Integrity RX was born, Karp said. Its slogan is “Helping to create families, one patient at a time.”
He said that owning his own pharmacy wasn’t originally part of his dream, but what he did want was to find his passion within the pharmacy world. His background in psychopharmacology has also proven to be beneficial, as it helps him to understand people better and to be compassionate about what they’re going through.
His personal experience with fertility treatments also help him better understand his patients. Seven years into his pharmacy work, he met his future wife, Laura, and after they married, they struggled with having a child.
“As it worked out, I had to become a fertility patient as well,” he said. “I have a unique perspective on what it’s like to go through treatment … and the stress and the pain” that comes with it.
His wife, who previously worked as a physical therapist, now leads the quality assurance team.
Going through fertility treatments can be a frightening experience, Karp said, because so much is on the line.
“I’m able to share with them that my wife and I went through this and although we had a couple of negative outcomes, in the end we had a positive outcome: His name is Benjamin and he’s 10 years old,” he said.
Benjamin is a now a fifth-grader at Pardes Jewish Day School and Karp serves as the secretary of the Jewish Tuition Organization.
The pharmacy is in a 10,000-square-foot facility located in a Scottsdale office complex. It has 36 employees who speak a total of five languages: Cantonese, English, Farsi, Mandarin and Spanish. They are currently licensed to operate in 27 states and are in the process of licensing in 15 additional states. They are also going through an accreditation process with the URAC, a nonprofit organization that establishes quality standards for the health care industry.
The process of fertility treatment is very regimented and timing is crucial. Integrity RX provides 24/7 assistance from fertility pharmacists and nurses, with many calls occurring outside of regular business hours because that’s when patients are using their medications and might need help mixing them or remembering where to inject them, Karp said. Medication education and counseling is offered on-site and instructional videos are also available on the pharmacy’s website.
Karp calls Integrity RX “a labor of love.”
“It was really an attempt for me to focus all my efforts on the patient and give back to a specialty that’s given us everything that’s important to us, which is our family,” he said.