Since 1950, Ferring Pharmaceuticals has been performing leading medical research to seek out and market drugs and health products that improve the health of patients all over the world. Established by renowned scientist Frederik Paulsen Sr., the Switzerland-based firm now has laboratories and commercial offices throughout the world. Paulsen’s son, Frederik Paulsen Jr., is the company’s current executive chairman. In the company’s Canadian headquarters in Toronto, Greg Rutherford, vice president of commercial operations, works with a strong commercial leadership team to ensure high-quality, clinically-proven drugs and probiotics are available in the Canadian market.
“Ferring Pharmaceuticals began as a more traditional pharmaceutical company focused on fertility and prescription-based products, but then expanded into natural health, including probiotics,” explains Rutherford. “Our company is established in many geographic areas; our footprint spans from central Europe to Russia, overseas to North America, Latin America and South America, as well as Asia and Africa. We have several sites dedicated to manufacturing in Germany, Switzerland, Denmark, Israel, the U.S. and other countries. Here in Canada, we employ approximately 80 people, while worldwide our employee base exceeds 5,000.”
Specialized research, development and marketing
While the international company boasts a slew of accomplishments, including the breakthrough production of synthetic oxytocin in 1961, recent years have seen a more focused approach to health care. Ferring Pharmaceuticals’ main focus areas are gastroenterology, urology, and reproductive health. “We have narrowed our strategic scope to three main areas and we are doing everything we can to help patients in these three areas,” says Rutherford.
Ferring Pharmaceuticals commercializes both prescription and non-prescription medications promoted through various channels, including directly to physicians and pharmacists. “In the non-prescription natural health arena, we focus on naturopaths, health and wellness clinics and patients.,” says Rutherford. “Our probiotics portfolio caters to patients, consumers, pharmacists and naturopathic doctors and clinics and natural health stores.”
Ferring Pharmaceuticals is a pharmaceutical company and not a typical consumer-oriented marketing organization that uses television advertising and one too many promotional venues. “Therefore, today you won’t see our products advertised on television,” Rutherford elaborates. “We focus on our traditional customers like physicians and naturopath specialists.”
“Something we are focused on now is digestive health education,” he continues. “One of our major goals is to increase consumer awareness in this area. We are driving growth both by educating health care professionals and consumers. We also rely on consumer blogging and word of mouth. One of our products, BioGaia probiotic drops, has been proven to treat colic in babies. One of the greatest channels for our growth is through ‘mommy bloggers,’ mothers who communicate with other mothers and spread the word about how well it works. Many people who are suffering can benefit from our products, but they just don’t know about them. Typically when a doctor recommends probiotics, a patient will go to the supermarket. Many of those products are not well-tested, but the marketing is there. We are science focused and the benefits of our probiotics have been proven through data.”
A growing portfolio
Ferring Pharmaceuticals offers a broad scope of prescription drugs in each of its three focused therapeutic areas. In reproductive health, the multinational corporation is marketing drugs that help women trying to conceive. The company also commercializes drugs in obstetrics which help women induce labor or prevent hemorrhaging.
In the urology category, Ferring Pharmaceutical commercializes treatment for men with advanced hormone-dependent prostate cancer, the treatment of bedwetting in children and the treatment of nocturia, a condition where adults wake up several times during the night to urinate.
The company’s gastroenterology focus is on commercializing drugs for IBD (ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease) as well as the leading bowel prep necessary for successful colonoscopy procedures.
Diving into probiotics
Though Rutherford has been working in the pharmaceutical industry for nearly 30 years, he says that up until 2014, he was naïve to how probiotics work and their importance to digestive health. “My wife became a nutritionist and she’s the one who really explained it to me,” he says. “Our digestive health is based on the foods we eat. Poor digestive health can negatively impact many health aspects, including our autoimmune health.”
“Now you see that people are trying to live healthier lives and correct years of bad eating that may have led to problems with inflammation,” he continues. “Even serotonin originates in the gut, so our mood can be impacted by digestive inflammation.”
According to Rutherford, the average consumer in pursuit of wellness may not get all the probiotic information they need. This is why so many people end up in the aisle of a supermarket, looking through dozens of choices without any guidance. “Our probiotics are indicated for IBD, IBS and colic,” Rutherford elaborates. “These products are promoted by gastroenterologists. It’s not a yogurt — they are products with clinical studies that support our indications, approved by Health Canada.”
The clear message regarding Ferring’s product line is that health begins with education. By providing studied and proven solutions and marketing through health care professionals, the business is taking a new approach to non-prescription wellness products. Ferring Pharmaceuticals continues to stand out in the wellness market by creating the right products and introducing them in clinical settings.