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From contract manufacturer to own brand

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The production site of Pfizer Manufacturing Germany (PMD) in Illertissen was taken over by R-Pharm ZAO in 2014 and renamed R-Pharm Germany GmbH. For the previous 45 years, it had been a manufacturer in the strategic network of Pfizer, making a range of high-tech pharmaceutical products.

“Before the takeover we were just a small cog in the massive, global Pfizer machine,” says Holger Weyhers, Vice President Manufacturing of the R-Pharm Group and Managing Director of R-Pharm Germany GmbH, who was previously plant manager in Illertissen and was promoted to Vice President Manufacturing after the takeover. “Now we have the opportunity to manufacture for third parties as well as launch our own products.”

The German manufacturing base is still under contract to manufacture for Pfizer until 2018. After that, it will have to compete for contracts on the open market.

“During the transition phase, it is a huge advantage for us to know that a manufacturing supply agreement is in place for the next three years,” says Dr. Weyhers. “It gives us financial security and the time to put our plans into action.”

These involve supporting its new parent group’s research and development activities in the USA and the expansion of its sterile production lines for pre-filled syringes. This area will commence production from 2019 and is expected to become a mainstay of the new company.

Much closer in the pipeline is the introduction of a line of generic medications to be launched under the company’s own brand in 2018.

“We are planning to launch a range of cancer drugs that will make treatments for cancer patients much more affordable,” says Dr. Weyhers.

As R-Pharm Germany gears up for a new chapter in a history that goes back 150 years, it can trade on its strengths as a key part of the Pfizer network.

Continuous investment throughout the past 50 years and continued by its new parent group mean that it can manufacture highly sophisticated products in an ultra-modern plant. Its core expertise lies in the extremely demanding field of high containment manufacturing. This involves the manufacture of products with a low concentration of active ingredients that are nonetheless highly effective.

“Normally in pharmaceutical manufacturing, the safety protocols are aimed at preventing product contamination,” explains Dr. Weyhers. “In high containment manufacturing, the opposite is true. We use a range of special technologies in our Newcon facility, which was commissioned in 2007 and has won a number of awards including the title of Facility of the Year from ISPE.”

The facility is certified by the FDA and uses an intelligent IT infrastructure to steer a fully automated process flow, free from human intervention.

No less impressive are R-Pharm’s conventional manufacturing methods. The company offers production services for various solid dosage forms including tablets, hard capsules, powders, granules and pellets.

The processes involved include miling, mixing and sieving; dry and wet granulation; pelletizing, capsule filling, tabletting and coating.

“We can offer proven technologies and certified processes but are also open to the possibility of investing jointly with our customers in new technologies and processes,” says Dr. Weyhers. “The expansion of our capacity in sterile manufacturing is a good example of our flexibility.”

R-Pharm employs 370 people in Germany and 3,000 in the whole group. Turnover for the German production plant is expected to reach 58 million EUR for 2015 against a total turnover for the group of 1.5 billion USD in 2014.

“Thanks to our previous work for Pfizer, we have a worldwide customer base and globally-oriented customer service, all of which augurs well for the future,” concludes Dr. Weyhers.

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