Fairview Health Services said ­Monday that it has cemented its stake in a company that operates a national pharmacy network to help hospitals and academic medical centers get access to specialty drugs.

The company, Excelera Corp., is a for-profit partnership of seven large hospital and clinic systems, formed in 2012, to help them gain access to the newest drugs that are used to treat such chronic illnesses and conditions as multiple sclerosis, cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, hemophilia and infertility.

Fairview joins Catholic Health Initiatives of Englewood, Colo., and Intermountain Healthcare of Salt Lake City as new majority owners in the venture. The other member/owners include Detroit-based Henry Ford Health System, Marshfield Clinic of Wisconsin, Avera Health of Sioux Falls, S.D., and Regional Health of Rapid City, S.D.

Fairview staff has operated the company since its founding.

By joining together some of the nation's largest health care organizations, Excelera aims to help individual hospitals better compete with large national pharmacy companies, including CVS and Walgreens, for access to drugs that are often in short supply.

The business model is a change from the conventional pharmacy model, where patients often are on their own to call in their prescription refills, and doctors can't ­easily monitor whether patients with chronic, complicated illnesses are taking medicines properly or whether an adjustment needs to be made, hospital officials said.

"With these complex patients, it's well worth it to have an integrated, high-touch, proactive ­system rather than relying on a remote mail-order model," said Kari Amundson, ­Fairview's direct of specialty business ­development.

M.S. drugs can cost $4,000 a month and newer ­cancer drugs can cost $8,000 to $10,000 a month, she said, and it's not unheard of for a remote pharmacy to ship a drug that goes to waste.

Through Excelera, Fairview's patients can be more closely monitored through their electronic health records, and if there's a change in the patient's condition, a "care team" can be directed to try to avoid a trip to the hospital or a relapse.

Fairview, based in Minneapolis, operates a chain of nonprofit hospitals and clinics, including the University of Minnesota Medical Center. It is the state's sixth-largest hospital system, with revenue of $3.2 billion last year.