Healthcare is one of the fastest-growing segments of the American economy right now, and specialty pharmacy is no exception, especially as more baby boomers retire and as drug companies develop more sophisticated therapies.
But by growing, specialty pharmacy can add value to local economies, too. Flint, Mich., has experienced some of the country’s worst economic fortunes since General Motors moved out of town. But now, Diplomat Specialty Pharmacy is helping to fill the economic void, thanks to its new headquarters at the former GM Great Lakes Technology Center, where it plans to invest $12 million and hire new staff. Specialty Pharmacy caught up with Diplomat president and CEO Phil Hagerman to talk about the company’s growth strategies.
Specialty Pharmacy: How have things been at Diplomat since the company moved into its new headquarters?
Phil Hagerman: The move was a tremendous benefit on many levels. The excitement of a new facility is great alone, but the pickup in capabilities the new headquarters offers both for now and in the future has the entire company focused on growth.
SP: How has the transition been?
Hagerman: It has been very smooth. Our information technology team was the key, bringing all systems in our new facility up to speed without a hitch. We then transitioned 300 employees over the next 90 days in three separate groups. Our new distribution system, with a ‘smart technology’ conveyor system, has been more successful than we even anticipated.
SP: What are some significant ways in which Diplomat has grown over the past year?
Hagerman: We have grown in all areas, adding over $200 million in additional revenue in 2010. We had another great year in managed care sales and now have almost 6 million exclusive or semi-exclusive lives under contract. We have expanded our Patient Assistance Program dispensing capabilities. We will also have full-service, VAWD-accredited warehousing and third-party logistics capabilities in our new facility for our biotech partners.
SP: How is the company implementing its new training program?
Hagerman: We launched Diplomat University last year, in September. We now have our new programs and employee educational portals all live. We are currently rolling out programs around all major disease states that affect employees in every department. We are also bringing in outside educational programs for such areas as telephony training and management training.
SP: What is the company doing in terms of new hiring and expansion?
Hagerman: We added 50 new employees in the first quarter of 2011. They were primarily in patient care roles but also included employees in managed care, finance, analytics, [information technology] and human resources. As our retailer partner programs ramp up, we expect to add significant staff in this area over the next two quarters.
Taro receives FDA approval for generic Aldara
HAWTHORNE, N.Y. — The Food and Drug Administration has approved a topical treatment for skin conditions made by Israeli generic drug maker Taro Pharmaceutical Industries.
Taro announced Monday the approval of imiquimod cream in the 5% strength. The drug is used to treat actinic keratosis and external genital warts, and is a generic version of Graceway Pharmaceuticals’ Aldara.
Imiquimod cream has annual sales of around $340 million in the United States, according to Taro.
Keryx, Torii commence phase-3 trial for Zerenex in Japan
NEW YORK — A U.S. drug maker and its Japanese partner have started a late-stage clinical trial of a drug for treating elevated phosphate levels in the body, the two announced Monday.
Keryx Biopharmaceuticals and Torii Pharmaceutical, the pharmaceuticals subsidiary of Japan Tobacco, started a phase-3 trial of Zerenex (ferric citrate) in Japan for patients with hyperphosphatemia. The drug also is in phase-3 trials in the United States as a treatment for hyperphosphatemia in patients with end-stage kidney disease on dialysis.
“We congratulate our partner, JT/Torii, on the initiation of the phase-3 program in Japan and are excited by their progress,” Keryx CEO Ron Bentsur said. “We believe that this serves to further validate the commercial potential for Zerenex worldwide.”