Scottsdale pharmacy delivers family dreams nationwide

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.

For more information about the pharmacy, visit integrityrxsp.com. This article first appeared in Phoenix Jewish News.

Never too late to learn

Maddie Groshon took flying lessons during World War II and hadn’t flown again until a few weeks ago.

Agustin Rosas drove 18-wheeler trucks as a young man and just recently, at age 80, got back behind the wheel.

A 97-year-old woman, who never used a computer before, sent e-mail for the first time.

All of this is happening at Kivel Campus of Care in Phoenix, Arizona’s first nursing home to use It’s Never 2 Late, a computer system linking seniors to technology.

The adaptive computer lab allows older adults, regardless of physical or cognitive disabilities, to use technology in a variety of ways.

Although some of the residents used a computer before arriving at Kivel, for most it was a first.

Groshon found her first computer experience a little intimidating but “thrilling at the same time.”

“I had the feeling that I was back in a little Cessna,” she says about using the program’s flight simulator. “It was a really good feeling.”

She’s impressed with the variety of programs the computer offers, including flying a plane, driving a car, riding a bike, and games. It “gives you something to do, it stimulates your mind,” she says.

“Maddie had tears in her eyes” when using the flight simulator, says Crystal Corriere, director of Kivel’s therapeutic recreation department. Flying and driving are things these seniors “thought they’d never be able to experience, in any way, again,” she says. “And now they’re able to get that back.”

Rosas, who returned behind the wheel via a truck-driving simulator, says he’s heard a great deal about the Internet and calls himself “absolutely illiterate about computers.” He’s excited to enter the “whole new world of possibilities.”

It’s Never 2 Late is currently in 60 nursing homes in Colorado, where it was founded six years ago by brothers Jack and the late Tom York. It’s also in Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, New York and Wisconsin, says Jack York. Kivel is the first nursing home in Phoenix to try this system.

When Kivel CEO Ira Shulman saw a presentation about a year ago, he knew he wanted it for Kivel. “It was clearly designed for our population and it would give them access to a world they’ve never seen,” he says. “I could just see their interest.”

He recommended the program to the Kivel Auxiliary, which raised money for the computer lab at last year’s annual luncheon.

“To watch someone who’s never used a computer enter the computer world is an amazing sight,” Shulman says.

Kivel introduced the first computer in August to the independent apartment residents. A kickoff in the Pavilion nursing home was Sept. 12 and a third kickoff, in the care center, was on Oct. 10.

Michael Lev, who started work as an It’s Never 2 Late independent contractor in June, trains Kivel staff and residents on the program. Initially, he thought residents would be afraid to try it, but he was quickly proven wrong. “They just dive in 100 percent,” he says. “They’re really open to learning.”

He says many seniors are a little apprehensive at first, worried that they’ll press the wrong button. But once they try it, they’re excited that “the world is opening up to them,” he says. He’s proud of the seniors he works with – “it takes a lot of guts to do what they’re doing.”

The computer system is not limited to seniors; it’s also being used toward rehabilitation, Love says. For instance, the system has aspects that work toward hand-eye coordination after a person is recuperating from a stroke. “The potential for the system is incredible,” he says. “We can gear the program toward each individual.”

The system offers an opportunity for each Kivel resident to be involved, Corriere says.

One program similar to a colorful, musical slide show provides sensory stimulation for patients with dementia, to help keep them alert and more involved in the environment.

The system also offers group programs – “Jeopardy” and “Wheel of Fortune” games are projected onto a large screen for group participation.

Others use e-mail to communicate with family and friends. Al Plotkin, who lives in Kivel’s independent apartments, was able to view and print a photograph of his days-old great-granddaughter born in Chatsworth, Calif.

Doris Stein, another Kivel resident, enjoys playing games on the computer, such as the “gambling” programs – as she defines “Jeopardy” and “Wheel of Fortune” games. She looks forward to receiving and sending e-mail to her daughter in Israel, who now calls her three times a week. “That gets to be expensive,” Stein says. She also plans to e-mail her son in California and several friends in Chicago.

The program also allows full Internet access that seniors use to research medications and medical conditions, find old classmates and military buddies and take advantage of everything else the Internet offers. “The residents have really embraced it,” Love says. “I want to Google” is a popular request.

The biggest obstacle Corriere found was residents thinking it would be too difficult.

But once they tried it, they got over their fear and enjoyed it, she says.

In the works is an e-mail pen-pal buddy program with local schools and a second pen-pal program with an out-of-state nursing home, Corriere says. “Right now children visit Kivel for activities and we want to keep that contact,” she says.

“It’s a great way for residents to really feel part of the community and connected.”

This article first appeared in the Jewish News of Greater Phoenix.