From startup to $1B company, Gordon Vanscoy steers PANTHERx through constant change


Gordon Vanscoy changes the organizational chart at PANTHERx Rare every six months because, as it evolves, the business requires different skills sets, mindsets and, perhaps, a different group of people handling those tasks.

That ability to be flexible in an industry of large players is key to its success.

“To introduce a new business to try to compete with CVS, to compete with Express Scripts, to compete with Walgreens, is a daunting, if not impossible task,” the chairman and CEO says. “This is clearly the David and Goliath story, where not only have we been able to compete but, in fact, we’ve been successful and we’ve actually grown to, I believe, attain the admiration of those companies.”

The rare disease pharmacy has come a long way since Vanscoy founded PANTHERx in a garage in Beaver, Pennsylvania, in 2011 with three former University of Pittsburgh students. The managing partner came out of semi-retirement to do so, because he knew that the government wanted to provide incentives for drug manufacturers to expand their research into rare, devastating diseases.

The company direct-delivers extremely limited-production, difficult-to-ship, life-saving, expensive, orphan medications to patients with extremely rare disorders, while providing clinical, nursing and financial counseling.

Today — thanks to years of rapid growth and four appearances on the Inc. 5000 list — PANTHERx has more than $1 billion in annual revenue. But with only 300 employees, it still has the ability to quickly adjust.

Vanscoy also in 2018 identified a need, developed and launched a second company, RareMed Solutions, which provides pharmacy services to patients on behalf of rare disease biotech manufacturers. With 75 employees, the startup’s growth trajectory is surpassing the early days of PANTHERx.

Constant evolution

With each growth phase at PANTHERx, the skill sets necessary to manage and lead the organization are different. Vanscoy says the company doesn’t want to be over-reactionary and change on a whim, but doing so can be a strategic advantage.

“We’re constantly changing with the market, we’re constantly changing with our business model, and you’ve got to change leadership to coincide with that,” he says.

That’s why the PANTHERx team has evolved from a bunch of mavericks who sometimes created friction for each other and didn’t know what they didn’t know, into a team of industry-leading, disruptive, skilled, experienced professionals who seamlessly work together, he says.

In addition, Vanscoy chose the right business partners to start the company, minority partners who have shared his vision throughout the company’s iterations, including the need to reinvest in the business.

As for Vanscoy, the rapid growth is a constant, but his role has evolved.

“I continue to focus more and more on the external environment, trying to see the forest, not just focus on the trees,” Vanscoy says, adding that he’s developed a team of leaders who don’t require constant supervision.