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Upsher-Smith Laboratories aims to improve patient health with specialty generic and brand pharmaceuticals.
As they celebrate a century of service to physicians, pharmacies, and patients, Upsher-Smith Laboratories is striding towards a second century of growth. Since its inception in 1919, the Minneapolis-based firm has formulated and supplied specialty generic and brand pharmaceuticals to its customers in the United States.
Acquired in 2017 by Japan’s largest manufacturer of generic drugs, Sawai Pharmaceutical Co., Ltd., Upsher-Smith is continuing its journey to Do More Good™ for the patients whose health depend on their products. The Healthcare Distribution Alliance (HDA) recently awarded the firm a pair of Distribution Industry Awards for Notable Achievement in Healthcare (DIANAs) for their manufacturing excellence.
“The awards can be attributed to the fact that we are a close-knit company,” said Adam Conlon, Upsher-Smith’s Senior Director of Manufacturing and Supply Chain. “We can maneuver quickly, and good internal and external relationships enable us to work with our supply base to mitigate potential supply interruptions. That’s what makes us able to keep our customers happy.”
That dedication to uninterrupted supply is an Upsher-Smith hallmark. Given the tightly controlled regulatory environment in which they operate, that commitment requires relentless focus, preparation, and determination. “There is complexity in a regulatory environment like this that can be more challenging than in other industries,” Conlon confirmed. The FDA regulates pharmaceutical production to ensure the products being made are safe, efficacious, and meet rigorous quality standards.
That adds a dimension of complexity to the supply chain, as well as time to the product life cycle. For example, changing active pharmaceutical ingredients, or APIs, requires a level of oversight that can take a year to complete.
Relationship management is an essential aspect of Conlon’s role. “I’m continually working with our suppliers to set expectations and then monitoring our progress using a variety of metrics,” he said. “We measure our relationships and make sure we are optimizing them to be mutually beneficial. The more API and raw materials that we can get without supply interruption, the more finished product we can sell. It's around enhancing those relationships we have with contract manufacturing organizations (CMOs) and our raw material providers.”
In July, Upsher-Smith added two products for adult migraines to its portfolio: TosymraTM and Zembrace® SymTouch®. Migraines are the third most common disabling medical condition in the world, affecting more than 36 million Americans. Conlon and his team are tasked with working to ensure the smooth delivery of Zembrace® SymTouch® to patients and to prepare for the launch of Tosymra™.
Consider the speed at which the company moved to make a seamless transition. “On Tuesday we got the completed products from the company we purchased them from, moved them into our warehouse, and today — Wednesday — we got our first sales order. It was very quick for just having closed the deal. It's quite impressive that Upsher-Smith can be that nimble and have everybody pull together to get that accomplished.”
Upsher-Smith’s operational excellence group includes Lean Six Sigma black belts, and the firm employs Lean Six Sigma and Kaizen continuous improvement processes. “Whether it's a manufacturing process or the launch of products, we look at how we can do it in the most efficient way that meets all the requirements that we have and results in creating the best value for our customers,” he said.
The support of its new corporate parent, Sawai, is helping the company consolidate facilities and build a sizeable addition to its Minnesota manufacturing facilities. “We are looking at placing equipment in the new facility to meet the needs of the business now, while leaving room for expansion. Since we don't have a crystal ball to know what these areas of future expansion may be, we have to build with flexibility in mind. There are other drug dosage forms that we are looking at potentially bringing in house as well, so those require different equipment and spaces,” he explained.
“We're looking at expansion on a couple of different levels, but we have our core competency of what we manufacture today, which is typically solid dose tablets, and where we don't have experience or volume, we look to have our CMOs manufacture those for us.”
As the expansion rolls out, Conlon is continuing the work of team building. A firm believer in empowerment, he believes that having the confidence to try, fail quickly, and take the lessons learned is essential for all leaders, especially in the complex worlds of supply chain and manufacturing.
“You have to have confidence that you have the right team, and then you have to empower and motivate them to look at whatever issues are arising. I don't need people to do transactional work; I need people to be decision-makers, so we work to reduce the amount of transactional activity so that we can make more decisions. … Your workforce will be much more engaged if you involve them in the decision-making process.”
Every decision made at Upsher-Smith is done with the quality of their products and the health of the people they serve at the core, and that’s sure to keep them at the top of their game for at least another 100 years.
Upsher-Smith Laboratories, LLC is a trusted US pharmaceutical company that strives to improve the health and lives of patients through an unwavering commitment to high-quality products and sustainable growth. Since 1919, it has formulated and manufactured specialty generics, brands and other products, either independently or with partners, for a wide array of customers, backed by its attentive level of service, its strong industry relationships, and its dedication to uninterrupted supply.
As Upsher-Smith celebrates its 100th year in business, it enters a new ambitious era that has been accelerated by its 2017 acquisition by Sawai Pharmaceutical Co., Ltd. With our new owner, Upsher-Smith looks to leverage one another other for growth worldwide and embark on an exciting new chapter. Together, Upsher-Smith seeks to deliver the best value for its stakeholders, and most importantly, Do More Good™ for the patients it serves.
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