Plug pulled on neb-med provider

Sunday, August 31, 2008

MURRAY, Ky. - Independence Home Pharmacy abruptly shut down Aug. 22, when its Dallas-based parent company Soporex filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection.

"It's pretty shocking they went under like that," said one industry insider. "I don't see how the company could go sour so quickly."

No one was more shocked than IHP's employees.

"We were notified via e-mail at 4:45 p.m. and all of our 123 employees were let go that day without pay," said a company insider.

IHP was formed in 2006 when Soporex, headed by former Rotech executive Steven Linehan, acquired Liberty Medical's neb-med business for an undisclosed sum. The company grew to 20,000 neb-med patients, mostly referred by independent HMEs.

"They kind of leapfrogged over everybody when they took over Liberty's patient base," said one industry insider. "The only other competitors they had were the nationals."

IHP's large size and continuous upheavals in Medicare's quarterly average sales price for neb-meds could have helped bring about the company's downfall, said Mickey Letson, president of Decatur, Ala.-based Letco Companies.

"The bigger you get, the more you have to plan, and it's very difficult to plan quarterly," he said. "They got caught in a couple of market transitions that ate them alive."

Soporex executives originally told IHP management to contact referral sources so patients could be transferred to pharmacies of their choice. Then they changed their minds, telling IHP management to transfer all patients to Lincare's respiratory pharmacy, Med4Home.

"The Med4Home people showed up on (Aug. 21) with a U-Haul truck and started loading all the billing and pharmacy charts," said a source. "The next morning, the computer system would not work. We are absolutely shocked that they called Med4Home."

Shifting patients to Med4Home could prove problematic for Soporex executives, Letson said.

"You can't offload assets just before you file bankruptcy," he said. "Then you've got all these creditors hung out there--and I'm one of the biggest--who could demand the bankruptcy judge recall all those patients and put them in an independent pharmacy until the court decides what to do."