A new Irish pharmaceutical company, Azure Pharmaceuticals (‘Azure’), has officially launched in the medicines market today.
Azure’s focus will be on prescription medicines, those older, off-patent medicines which have disappeared or are at risk of disappearing from the market.
These medicines, still seen by physicians as staples in their arsenal, are used by tens of thousands of Irish patients but are vulnerable to shortages. As the focus of payers and healthcare professionals move to newer and more expensive medicines, the prices for older medicines have been consistently reduced, while the cost of regulation has unerringly risen. As a result, the number of suppliers has, in many cases, been dwindled to one single supplier. The latter scenario has increased the risk of shortages, if that last supplier then itself experiences manufacturing issues.
Medicine shortages in the Irish and global markets are not new phenomena, but they have become a much larger issue in recent years. Internationally, it has been termed “pharma famine”, and it often occurs as a result of manufacturing issues which then interrupt the global and Irish supply chains.
Ireland is particularly vulnerable because of its small market size and lack of multiple suppliers.
According to the HPRA, there are currently more than 150 medicines out of stock, and it is feared that this number will grow significantly post-Brexit.
For patients, medicine shortages are more than just an inconvenience: they can have detrimental impacts on their treatment regimes. Pharmacists are spending increasing amounts of time trying to source alternative medicines rather than consulting with patients on the frontline.
From the perspective of the HSE and taxpayers, when medicines are out of stock the HSE is often forced to use unlicensed medicines to meet patient needs. These can cost multiples of the original out-of-stock medicine.
To address these issues, Azure has established several strategic partnerships with global manufacturers to re-introduce these medicines to the Irish market and to offer alternative supply for single-source, older medicines to pharmacists and the HSE. The first products in the pipeline will reach the market here in November 2019 with a continuous stream of launches coming to market over the coming years.
Azure management track record
The management team behind Azure Pharmaceuticals have decades of experience in the Irish medicines market and were to the fore in bringing generics to the market here; they were later instrumental to the significant growth of the generic medicine usage. This now stands at almost 60% of all medicines consumed in the Irish market.
With this strong track-record, Azure are now seeking to once again bring this entrepreneurial and commercial drive to this latest venture to create a new dynamic in the Irish medicines market.
Comment by Azure CEO Sandra Gannon
“We are delighted to be officially launching in the Irish market. We are particularly pleased that the company’s commercial focus will help address a growing problem for patients, pharmacists, and our health service.
“Medicines that regularly experience shortages or are only available without a license undermine patients’ access to treatment. Not only is it challenging for patients day-to-day, it also risks causing larger health issues and placing a greater burden of care on our already stretched health services.
“Feedback from pharmacists on Azure’s proposition has been overwhelmingly positive.
Dealing with medicine shortages or sourcing unlicensed medicines is time-consuming for pharmacists and costly to the State. We want to work with stakeholders to tackle these supply issues.
“In terms of our business model, we understand the dynamics in medicines market here and where the weaknesses are and will be in the future. We will bring a new focus to this part of the market and in doing so, deliver better service and value to the State and healthcare professionals.
“For patients, our products will grant greater access to essential medicines. We believe that Azure’s arrival in the market is timely given the current extent of medicine shortages and the fact that they are likely to worsen after Brexit.
“As a new company, with an ability to be agile and innovative, we believe that we can make a significant contribution to address supply issue while also driving competitive pricing.”