Kenny Kramm, who as a distraught father concocted a flavored additive for his infant daughter’s anti-seizure drug, later marketing the product through pharmacies across the country and helping make the medicine go down for millions of children, died July 12 at a hospital in Washington. He was 55.
He contracted an infection that resulted in sepsis and cardiac arrest, said his wife, Shelley Kramm.
The son of a pharmacist, Mr. Kramm grew up working at his family’s business, Center Pharmacy in the Spring Valley neighborhood of Washington. He had joined the operation as a business manager by 1992, when he and his wife had their second daughter, Hadley.
Severely premature, she suffered a brain hemorrhage when she was 10 days old and developed disabilities including cerebral palsy. “When you have a baby, you have boundless hopes for them,” Mr. Kramm told Inc. magazine in 2003. “All we could do was ask, ‘What is the best we can hope for? Will she be able to walk? Will she talk?’ ”
Hadley also suffered from life-threatening seizures that required four doses per day of phenobarbital, a foul-tasting drug that she would often throw up.
Other times, “she would clamp her mouth shut, and you couldn’t get it open,” her father recalled. “If you did get it open, she’d hold the medicine in her mouth for half an hour until she’d start crying, and it would come out all over her. That was worse because we didn’t know how much she’d gotten, and we were afraid of giving her more in case she got too much.”
Shelley Kramm recalled that she begged her husband to search the resources of the family pharmacy for a way of making the drug more palatable for Hadley. Working with his father, Mr. Kramm tested an array of candy flavorings with the phenobarbital. Mr. Kramm would test a sample on his tongue, then wash out his mouth before trying the next one in search of a pleasing combination.
Hadley “rejected at least 10 before she finally accepted banana,” Mr. Kramm told Inc. magazine. “When she swallowed it, that was the first time in months that I felt I had some control back in my life.”
Convinced that the product could be useful for other families, the Kramms began offering flavored additives for prescriptions at their pharmacy. Mr. Kramm credited his father with doing “all the technical stuff” — ensuring that the additives would not interact with the drugs they were designed to mask — while he did “all the tasting.”
They developed dozens of flavors, including perennial favorites such as bubble gum and grape, watermelon, sour apple and root beer. They learned that not all flavors matched all drugs. Amoxicillin, for example, paired well with nearly any taste. Penicillin provided less flexibility.
For adults, they offered more mature flavors such as cappuccino and piña colada. For pet prescriptions, they developed tuna- and liver-flavored additives.
According to the Kramms, the additives, which they dubbed FLAVORx, transformed their business. The pharmacy’s once largely elderly clientele came to include many families with young children.
Mr. Kramm became chief executive of FLAVORx, a company incorporated in the mid-1990s, and began licensing the product first to other independent pharmacies and later to chains such as CVS, Walgreens, Safeway and Rite Aid. A single prescription could be flavored for between $2 and $5.
By 2007, Mr. Kramm told reporters, FLAVORx products were sold in half of all U.S. pharmacies, as well as in Canada and Australia, and had been used in 40 million prescriptions.
“It might seem like a small thing,” he told the Daily Record of Baltimore, “but if you can’t get that medicine . . . into a child’s body, you can’t do any good.”
Kenneth Lee Kramm was born in Washington on June 16, 1961. He grew up in Potomac, Md., where he graduated from Winston Churchill High School in 1979 and received a bachelor’s degree in advertising design from the University of Maryland in 1984.
He began his career as an art director for a Georgetown ad agency but “just didn’t like advertising,” he told The Washington Post. “I went back to the pharmacy to get my head together and I realized I wanted to stay at the pharmacy.”
Mr. Kramm sold FLAVORx about a decade ago. Outside of his work, he helped his wife, the former Shelley Neiss, in a campaign to build wheelchair-accessible playgrounds for children. They were married for 31 years.
Besides his wife, of Rockville, survivors include two daughters, Sarah Spund of Baltimore and Hadley Kramm of Rockville; his parents, Harold and Judy Kramm of Washington; and a sister, Harriet Pitler, also of Washington.
Reflecting on his work, Mr. Kramm told The Post that “if Hadley had never been born and not had cerebral palsy, none of this would have happened.”
“Things don’t always work out the way you want,” he said, “but it has made us better people and hopefully let us help more people in the world.”
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