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30 Best CEOs of the Year 2021

An Interview with Rick Niemi, Valor Compounding Pharmacy Founder and CEO: ‘Our mission is to increase awareness of and access to compounded medication alternatives in the United States.’

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“‘Life is better with Valor’ is our motto because we find that many of our patients and prescribing doctors appreciate how easy we make it to understand and obtain compounding options to treat medical illnesses or conditions.”

Valor Compounding Pharmacy is a specialized compounding pharmacy that customizes medications to fit the unique needs of each patient.

The company was incorporated in 2016 and is headquartered in Berkeley, CA.

Rick Niemi, Valor Compounding Pharmacy Founder and CEO, spoke exclusively to The Silicon Review. Below is an excerpt.

Q. Explain your services in brief.

Valor is a 503A licensed compounding pharmacy, with a team of over 40 that makes custom compounded medications for patients with unique medication needs. Offering both sterile and non-sterile compounding, we’re licensed in 11 states and have applications in to be licensed in 15 more by the end of Q1 2021. Compounded prescriptions are prescribed by a doctor when a medication is needed in a specific dosage form or strength that is not commercially available, for example, at your local CVS or Rite Aid. Additionally, Valor makes a particular type of medication when a traditionally manufactured medicine is widely out of stock or becomes unavailable altogether.

Q. In a few cases, medicines from Compounding Pharmacy can be expensive from standardized medications. How do you maintain affordability?

Many compounded prescriptions for the most part are not generally covered by insurance and yes, some can be expensive. At Valor, we’ve solved for this by creating the industry’s first flat-rate pricing program in some categories, for example, hormone replacement. The prescription formula might change monthly, but the cost to our patients is the same, except on the rare occasions where very high amounts of testosterone are prescribed. We make medications prescribed to treat erectile dysfunction and mental wellness (anxiety) that have flat-rate pricing programs as well, and more flat-rate pricing categories are coming. One is currently being developed for pain, and this will be visible on our website by end of Q4 2020 or beginning of Q1 2021. Compounded medications can, at times, be more costly. But there is something to be said for the fact doctors continue to write for compounds and patients continue to take them.

Q. Medications from Compounding Pharmacy may not be covered by insurance. How do you manage to protect the interest of the patients in such cases?

At Valor, we always keep the patient in mind and at the forefront of everything we do. It’s all about them and in helping them achieve success. Compounds are prescribed for a reason, and in most cases it’s because what they were taking previously is no longer commercially available. This could mean that the medication is widely backordered or no longer available at pharmacies like Walgreens or Rite Aid. Valor does not accept insurance, but we do provide a completed claim for patients to submit to their insurance in the event the item they’re getting is covered on their prescription drug plan. What matters most to our patients is that they achieve their desired results from taking the medications we make. We cannot make claims about drug efficacy and we do not prescribe. However, in working with prescribers, we very much partner in the patient’s care and are today a significant part of the healthcare team. And again, we work to mitigate high costs to the patients by offering first-to-market flat-rate-pricing programs meant to offer high quality compounds for a cost anyone can afford.

Q. What motivated you to reinvent the Compounding Pharmacy segment?

I don’t think we’re reinventing compounding pharmacy really; we’re on a journey to creating a heightened awareness about compounding alternatives and how Valor can help. The patient still has to do their homework and the doctor still has to diagnose and treat the patient. In circumstances where a potential drug therapy matches a condition, Valor, now America’s compounding pharmacy provider of choice, is ready to serve the doctor and patient in a progressive and collaborative way. We make everything easy and seamless for our patients. And with the doctors and their staff, we are a valued and trusted partner. We work with college and professional sports teams, national health plans and provider networks, university and research scientists, health systems, and retail pharmacy companies. We serve a large direct-to-patient population that is growing, where the patient is taking it upon themselves to get educated and find a physician that can treat their condition. We are working on a new pharmacy model and hope to launch it in full force in Q1 of 2021.

Q. Reinventing compounding pharmacy needs the support of high-level talent and dedication. How did you manage to form your dream team?

We find our talent in the old fashion way, we seek them out. Using behavioral and cognitive assessments and other proprietary methods have worked well for us in finding people. The challenge is that what we’re doing is so unique – we can’t find candidates who’ve already done the work – for the most part. We find people who fit the Valor culture and train them for the skills needed to be successful. Finding success with finding, training, and retaining high-level talent has been an uphill climb. And we’ll soon be on the other side to being the compounding pharmacy company of choice for the best talent our industry has to offer. We’re not yet there but will be, no doubt.

Q. If you had one piece of advice to someone just starting, what would it be?

Find your passion and go all in for it. You might not succeed at the very thing you’re trying to do, but you’ll have success along the way, and those small victories will lead to other opportunities. Those opportunities will lead to success if you don’t give up and continue with the effort required to sustain long enough to find your way. Entrepreneurs take calculated risks to realize their dreams. Having the right people around you to champion your cause and support you is key. Digging deep and fighting the good fight has to come from within. When why you do what you do is authentic, you’ll figure out how along the way. No one has all the answers when they start. Just need to take the first step, building on one small victory after another. It takes time, patience, perseverance, and endurance, and a steadfast resilience to make it happen.

Q. What do you think is the most memorable moment in your career?

I don’t think I have just one moment that is the most memorable. The journey in itself is what’s to be remembered more than one single moment. The most meaningful thing to me is my family. It’s why I do what I do, it’s why I work so hard, and it’s what drives me to be a better man, husband, father, and friend. My wife is a pharmacist and that’s how I got into pharmacy in the first place. She’s the best thing that’s ever happened to me and because of her, I found my calling in pharmacy. My family supports me and because my home situation is healthy, I’ve been blessed to have a meaningful career. This journey we’re in now with Valor is just getting started and I am excited about the season we’re in and in what the future holds for our great company.

Rick Niemi: A Dynamic Leader

Rick Niemi, founder, serves as the Chief Executive Officer of Valor Compounding Pharmacy. With 25 years of experience in pharmacy, Mr. Niemi’s journey to today has included retail and closed-door pharmacy ownership (with an emphasis on medication adherence for ambulatory patients), pharmacy automation sales and consulting in the western United States, and now compounding pharmacy. A natural-born leader and entrepreneur, Mr. Niemi has been a pioneer in the industry and a trusted partner for many years.

Mr. Niemi has been married for 26 years in 2021. He has two beautiful children.

“We’re inventing the heightened awareness of alternative therapies for certain conditions that can be prescribed by a doctor.”