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Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung: STADA wants to set the gold standard

The company is setting trends with new special medicines, including a Parkinson's drug. Medical cannabis is also coming to pharmacies

By Ilka Kopplin, Frankfurt

In this country alone, 400,000 people suffer from Parkinson's disease. After Alzheimer's, it is the second most common neurodegenerative nerve disease worldwide. While there were 2.5 million Parkinson's patients worldwide in 1990, the number grew to 6 million in 2016. And the trend is rising. The need for medicines is therefore great. At least for patients in the advanced stages, there is now a new drug that, according to STADA CEO Peter Goldschmidt, has the chance to become "the gold standard", as he said in an interview with the F.A.Z.

He sees the Parkinson's drug Lecigon, which has now been launched in Germany and Austria, as a real growth driver for the Bad Vilbel-based manufacturer of generics, special pharmaceuticals and branded over-the-counter medicines. It is a triple preparation that is delivered in gel form via a pump. STADA had taken over distribution rights for this drug from Lobsor Pharmaceuticals last year. This combination was not previously available on the market and is not more expensive than previous therapies. In addition, the drug could improve patients' quality of life. Annual sales in the three-digit million euro range are "absolutely" possible with this product, he said. "I have very high hopes that it will become one of, if not the, leading drug in our portfolio," he is convinced. The product is to be launched in other markets. Countries also outside Europe, for example India and China, are the target together with partners.

Another growth market is still very new for Stada. "We offer medicinal cannabis, i.e. extracts and flowers that have to be prescribed by a doctor. We have built up a large salesforce for this, through which we work with doctors and pharmacists," said Goldschmidt. From this Monday, the products will be available in local pharmacies. Especially in the pain segment, medical cannabis is a good alternative. Stada entered into a partnership and supply agreement with Medipharm Labs last year. Other European markets are to follow. Although the niche is still small for STADA, and also highly regulated, Goldschmidt expects a lot.

This also applies to the American market, where the company has not been active so far. The company is now entering that market. "We are launching our own brands in the United States and have applied for further licences. In the next two to three years, a broad range of products in the non-prescription segment is planned," he said. The manager cites vitamins, dietary foods and nutritional supplements "that we want to go to market with". For this, he said, the company is working with contract manufacturers.

Increasingly, the company is focusing strategically on partnerships and in-licensing. Last year alone, 80 new products were added in this way, said Goldschmidt. He counts nine biosimilars, follow-on biopharmaceutical drugs, in the pipeline.

After a turbulent period in which Stada was finally taken over by financial investors Bain and Cinven after a bidding race, the group, which now has more than 12,000 employees, has stabilised again and has recently grown strongly. In the first half of 2020, Stada increased sales by 16 per cent to around 1.5 billion euros despite the pandemic, and adjusted operating profit (EBITDA) was 14 per cent higher at 337 million euros. The company, which is no longer listed on the stock exchange, plans to present figures for the full year in a few days.

"The markets and segments developed very differently last year," says Goldschmidt. "We had strong growth markets, for example Russia, Vietnam and various European countries. The exception is the cold remedies business," he said. In other markets, including Germany, the largest home market in terms of sales, there were "massive slumps", he said. "People have stopped going to the pharmacy, to the doctor and in some cases to the hospital," he said. Minerals such as zinc and vitamins, on the other hand, were in high demand.

Meanwhile, the pandemic has had little impact on the company's own production. Only at the beginning of last year did the government order a plant in China to close for a fortnight. In addition, the already high safety standards that apply in pharmaceutical production had been tightened even more. "In some cases, public transport was too unsafe, so we organised transport services," he told us. Also, he said, the supply via the canteens had to be set up differently.

In order to take precautions, Stada had already increased its stocks at the beginning of last year. In the future, the company also wants to become more independent. "For particularly relevant raw materials, we have established a second supply chain, so that we have increased our delivery reliability even further in the last twelve months," said the manager, also with a view to political discussions about dependence on Asian suppliers. In this context, however, Goldschmidt also mentioned problems during the crisis. The company had built its own production plant in Vietnam, where products for the European market are to be manufactured. However, the plant still has to be approved by the local authorities. Due to the pandemic, however, they are also restricted in their work and cannot currently carry out any approvals abroad. "The inspection of such drug sites abroad is currently a big problem. This can potentially lead to a backlog of product availability," the manager warned.

Goldschmidt sees Central and Eastern European countries as growth markets - Russia is Stada's second largest market. "We also still see great potential in Asian countries," he said. In future, he also wants to have a stronger online presence and also to include older target groups even more. Further in-licensing is also to follow.

However, the expansive strategy of the past years was also costly. Net debt rose to almost 2.5 billion euros by mid-2020. That is certainly a relatively high figure, the manager admits. However, even during the crisis, the company delivered stable cash flows, so that it had no problem obtaining capital on good terms. Or does the path lead back to the stock exchange? That is a theoretical possibility for shaping the future, he said.


Quelle: Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung