LITTLETON — For the second time in its history, Eastern States Compounding Pharmacy has expanded, moving into a new space on Union Street, thanks in large part to producing a product its founder says is of the highest-quality for customers.
Located in a building that began life in the 1960s as a dry-cleaning business, Eastern States is owned by David Alan Rochefort, 40, a North Country native and a second-generation pharmacist.
The son of Pidy and Richard Rochefort, David Rochefort is a 1992 graduate of White Mountains Regional High School. He grew up in Lancaster, where his father owned and operated the Sullivan Drug Store, which first opened in 1856.
Rochefort said that 158 years ago, 90 percent of all the medications that were sold at pharmacies were compounded, meaning they were custom made at the pharmacy to meet specific needs — age, weight, dietary restrictions, allergies, etc.
With the advancements of science and technology, however, 99 percent of all medications are now made by pharmaceutical companies at predetermined doses. “But we still have that 1 percent that might slip through the cracks,” said Rochefort, which is where a compounding pharmacy comes in.
All pharmacies can and do compound medications, Rochefort added, but there are very few that focus exclusively on the practice as Eastern States does, he said.
Recently, employees at the company worked late to provide an anti-seizure drug to a pediatrician at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center whose 3-year-old patient was allergic to the sugar in a commercially-made medicine.
At other times, Eastern States has made pain relief medications without narcotics, finding different pathways — a topical lotion versus tablet and by substituting ingredients — to achieve the desired result for a patient who was in pain but was also at risk of addiction to narcotics.
While working at the Sullivan Drug Store, Rochefort saw his father compounding medications and the good that came of it. Inspired by that, he enrolled at the University of Rhode Island after graduating from high school and earned a degree in pharmacy.
After college, Rochefort worked at several traditional pharmacies in Vermont and met his wife, the former Heather Olsen, who was also from the North Country, having grown up in North Haverhill.
The couple moved back to Lancaster, and Rochefort resumed working at his family’s pharmacy, becoming a co-owner. When pharmacy giant Rite Aid came calling in 2005 and offered to buy Sullivan Drug, the Rocheforts sold.In 2006, David Rochefort founded the Northern New England Compounding Pharmacy.
Starting with a 1,000-square-foot space on Cottage Street in Littleton, the pharmacy quickly outgrew it, and in 2012, Rochefort began looking for bigger digs, eventually settling on the Union Street property, which he bought in 2013 and which will host an open house on July 29 from 5 to 7 p.m.
Rochefort — who was previously honored by the New Hampshire Union Leader as one of 40 people under 40 to watch — changed the name of his business in 2013. The original name, he explained, was too similar to that of another compounding pharmacy.
In the fall of 2012, a fatal outbreak of fungal meningitis was traced to fungal contamination in medicine made by the New England Compounding Center of Framingham, Mass. That company eventually filed for bankruptcy, but before the news broke about what had happened there, Rochefort recalled getting “strange calls” from people who were confusing the two pharmacies.
Rochefort decided to end the confusion by changing the name of his business on Jan. 1, 2013, to Eastern States Compounding Pharmacy.
“They (New England Compounding Center) called themselves a pharmacy,” Rochefort said, “but really they were a drug manufacturer,” producing medications in lots of 10,000 or more. By comparison, Rochefort’s business and its successor make medications for one patient at a time.
The fallout from New England Compounding Center situation resulted in the New Hampshire Board of Pharmacy taking an even harder look at compounding pharmacies, “not that New Hampshire had a problem,” Rochefort said.
To make sure that his compounding pharmacy doesn’t have any problems, Rochefort places a premium on quality control. Whereas state and federal guidelines allow up to a 10 percent deviation in compounded medications, Eastern States’ limit is 3 percent.
The company has an elaborate, computerized system that tracks an order from prescription to manufacture to shipping. Additionally, company employees regularly call the customer — and his or her doctor — to make sure the compounded medicine is working the way it was intended and with no adverse complications.
Every ingredient that goes into a compounded medication at Eastern States is documented.
Eastern States Compounding Pharmacy has 15 employees. Rochefort said he can envision hiring more as well as expanding his pharmacy’s physical footprint, which currently stands at about 4,400 square feet.
He said he chose to keep the business in Littleton because the town is conveniently located to family and, even more importantly, because “I recognize the value of living above the notches.”