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LaConte: F. Dohmen Co. celebrates 150 years with $1.5 million in charitable giving

By Brian E. Clark

MILWAUKEE – For most of its 150 years, the family-owned F. Dohmen Co. has operated pretty much under the radar, building its wholesale drug business from its headquarters in Wisconsin. In recent years, it switched to providing outsourced business services to the producers and payers of life science products.

Now, a century and a half after it was started by German pharmacist Frederich Dohmen, the company is seeking a higher profile by creating a foundation and donating $750,000 to three charities that provide health care service to the neediest parts of the world.

In addition, the fifth-generation Badger State firm’s F. Dohmen Foundation is spreading its largesse closer to home by giving $500,000 to the UW-Madison School of Pharmacy for scholarships and $250,000 to the Wisconsin Historical Society.

Cynthia LaConte, the company’s CEO and a fifth-generation member of the Dohmen family, said the gifts “remind us of an important legacy, one that was founded on caring and a commitment to making lives better.”
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LaConte, who noted that the company’s portfolio now includes pharmaceutical logistics through DDN, and prescription benefit management through RESTAT, said F. Dohmen was “honored” to support the pharmacy school, the state historical society and the global health care organizations.

The charities are:

• MAP International – During fiscal year 2008, MAP distributed more than $458 million in medicines and emergency medical supplies for underprivileged people in 117 countries across the globe. MAP also increased its shipment of Travel Packs to more than 3,000. Each portable pack contains approximately $14,000 in essential medicines and supplies designed for doctors traveling to hard-to-reach areas.

• IMA World Health – By providing health care services and products to people in need across the globe, IMA World Health envisions a world relieved of the burden of disease that results from poverty and instability. This is accomplished through direct provision to hospitals, clinics, programs, and other healthcare providers, and by strengthening health systems through training, education, and oversight.

• Vitamin Angels - Dedicated to providing vital nutrition in the form of supplements to developing countries, communities and individuals in need. Vitamin Angels plans to eliminate Vitamin A deficiency childhood blindness by the year 2020 through the systematic distribution of vitamin A to at-risk children. In 2007, Vitamin Angels reached more than 7 million children by providing nutritional supplements to programs in over 40 countries.

LaConte said Frederich Dohmen, a formally trained druggist, introduced sophisticated and therapeutic pharmaceutical compounds to the Midwest at a time when many of the drugs sold to consumers were little more than “snake oil.”

She said the company, which now has international clients, made its own drugs for nearly a century, only discontinuing that effort in the 1950s.

LaConte, who founded DDN and became COO of Dohmen in 2006, said the company has 315 employees in Wisconsin, Tennessee and California.

She said that while the company was well known within its industry, it had not sought a large public profile.

“We were pretty singular in our focus,” she said. “But now as we seek a more diverse future in our business offerings, I think it is important that we get the word out and let people know who we are and what we do.”

She said diversification is the sign “of any healthy company that can endure for 150 years and five generations.”

Even within the wholesale pharmaceutical model, she said Dohmen did a lot that was considered innovative by embracing technology and advancing customer service.

She declined to say what the privately held firm’s annual sales figures are, but she said DDN ships around $7 billion worth of product. And RESTAT, Dohmen’s prescription benefit side, manages around $3.4 billion in drug spending.

LaConte said the Badger State has been good to her family’s company.

“We are biased because Wisconsin has been our roots for all these many years,” she said. “It’s been a fantastic place to do business… thanks to wonderful, hardworking, caring people.

“In terms of finding and advancing an employee base, we find Wisconsin ideal,” she added.

Though the company exited its wholesale pharmacy business model because “that landscape changed dramatically,” she said the opportunities for Dohmen are expanding.

“If anything over the past decade, we’ve seen more receptivity to the outsource business model… by larger, middle-tier and even emerging companies that have embraced the outsourcing of many of their business functions,” she said.

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