Beacon for reproductive woes
By Earl D.C. Bracamonte
The World Health Organization estimates that there are about 60 to 80 million cases of infertility around the world. It further cited that 186 million women in developing countries experience childlessness despite 5 years of attempting pregnancy or live birth. This translates to 1 in every 4 couples with unfulfilled dreams of having a child.
In the Philippines, it is estimated that around 9 per cent of Filipino couples have infertility problems. Ironically, with population explosion on the brink, still, a lot of couples remain childless. Now, Filipino couples who are having problems conceiving children need not go abroad.
Partnership with government
The recent enactment of the Reproductive Health (RH) Law proves that the government supports the improvement of maternal health while strengthening the right of couples to decide the number of children they would like to raise. With a growing economy, universal healthcare has become a priority of the government.
Although much controversy surrounds the RH Law regarding contraception, few people talk about the other side of the law which is pro-conception and pro-creation. One of the elements of reproductive health as defined by law is infertility. The government should also support the prevention, treatment and management of infertility and sexual dysfunction. This would imply support for infertile couples who would like to start a family and have children of their own.
It is hoped that Ferring Pharmaceuticals presence in the country collaborates with the Department of Health (DoH) and the medical community in bringing value-added innovative products that will provide life-changing impact on the areas of reproductive health, as well as in gastroenterology, urology and in particular, infertility.
“Our stake is in the education and training of midwives and doctors and to develop strategies for maternal care. We would like to help the government reduce the number of maternal mortality in government hospitals. The increased healthcare funding of the government, including reproductive health, is a good start.
“In the Philippines, about 211 mothers die for every 100,000 child births. There were only 900 cycles (out of a 100-million populace) of in-vitro fertilization (IVF) in 2013 as against Russia’s 60,0000 (in a population of 114-million). In the Soviet state, 30 per cent of the cost is subsidized by the government. We want to develop the infertility market of the Philippines. As of now, there are only five IVF centers in the Philippines; four in Manila and one in Cebu,” shared Jane Villablanca, general manager of Ferring’s Philippine representative office.
“The older a woman gets, more medicines are needed to take care of her fertility level. After 35, the success rate goes down,” intimated Jane, who was blessed with two daughters (Mariyana, 4 and Mariyela, 3) after four IVF procedures.
It is ironic why a mother will die while giving birth. This rate is very high compared to the goal of the DoH which is to bring this number down to the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) of less than 50 deaths for every 100,000 births.
“We have products that will help save the lives of mothers during childbirth by preventing post-partum hemorrhage and delay pre-imminent pre-term birth. 43 per cent of our global sales are from reproductive health alone. Ferring has prescription products for all stages of child-bearing; from conception to delivery. Clinical studies are available for all in our portfolio,” she added.
Treatment of infertility is one of Ferring’s key areas of expertise and it is committed to progress in the field of Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART). Its female healthcare portfolio consists of traditional, highly-purified, and standardized human-derived products at every stage of the reproductive cycle to ensure better maternal health and safe child birth. Clinical studies and years of use have shown that Ferring’s hormonal therapies are effective and offer a good safety profile. The company looks to become the market leader in reproductive health care through its products for infertility and obstetrics.
Founded in Malmo, Switzerland in 1950, the privately-owned research-driven biopharmaceutical company is headquartered within the neutral state. Established against the backdrop of the Second World War, Dr. Frederik Paulsen fled from Nazi Germany as a student, eventually arriving in Sweden where he established Nordiska Hormon Laboratoriet. The company would later be known as Ferring with Dr. Paulsen and wife Eva becoming the first scientists to synthesize peptides by producing the adrenocorticotrophin hormone (ACTH), or stress hormone. “Ferring is the first company to synthesize and reproduce peptide hormones. We sell the concept and science before the products. Before the representative office was established, our products were available in the Philippines through the Metro Drug distribution network. Our presence in the Philippines and the rest of the Asia Pacific region is the result of globalization,” informed Villablanca.
This discovery made the company a pioneer in developing and selling pharmaceutical products based upon natural, pituitary-produced peptide hormones. Choosing to remain under the radar of a ‘big pharma’ (referring to companies with revenue in excess of $3 billion, and/or research & development expenditures in excess of $500 million), it was only in 1988, when Dr. Paulsen’s youngest son Frederik Jr., assumed the position as chief executive and led the company’s worldwide expansion.
The younger Paulsen first established a research group in San Diego (California)) in 1996, recognizing the vibrant opportunities in the region. Since establishing a presence there, Ferring has been able to assemble a world-class peptide research organization and establish collaborations with leading academic scientists. The Ferring Research Institute moved to its new home in February 2009 with the opening of a 38,000-square-foot facility in Sorrento Valley. The new state-of-the-art facility houses expanded research laboratories for peptide medicinal chemistry, biochemistry, bio-analytics, and pharmacology.
The company has nine development sites around the world that include six product development laboratories in Copenhagen (Denmark), Parsippany (USA), Glasgow (Scotland), Be’er Tuvia (Israel), Basel (Switzerland), and Mumbai (India). Ferring, too, has the world’s largest portfolio of peptide-based medicine as well as in recombinant protein and biological therapeutics.
“Company philosophy is what I look at before joining any entity. When I saw that Ferring’s aligned with my own, I couldn’t say no. We’re driven by science and backed by research. As I said, the company initiated research on the pituitary glands where the peptides are. After all, hormones affect all parts of the body,” emphasized Jane.
Ferring is one of the very few pharmaceutical companies that continue to invest in better obstetrics products, designed to make childbirth safer. Most recently, the company announced a partnership with Merck, Sharp & Dohme (MSD) and the World Health Organization (WHO) to address global maternal mortality through the development of a special heat-stable product to treat post-partum hemorrhage.
“We would like to help prevent deaths during childbirth and give infertile couples a better chance of starting a family. And in the process, we will build a strong business driven primarily by science and, as an incidence, profits derived,” Jane disclosed.
Now based from a global hub in Switzerland, Ferring develops innovative products in the four therapy areas of reproductive health, urology, gastroenterology, endocrinology, and orthopedics. As a private, research-driven specialty biopharmaceutical company, it is committed to building a portfolio of novel, innovative peptide therapeutics to address areas of high unmet medical need.
The company’s philosophy is ‘People come first.’ “We live it every day of the week. We have respect for all stakeholders; whether the patients, to ensure they get the care they deserve; the medical community or our employees. We expect our employees to take on a lot of responsibility. It’s a great place to work,” enthused president & CEO Michel Pettigrew, during his Manila visit to inaugurate the new Philippine representative office at the Bonifacio Global City.
“It has been more than six decades, yet that same passion of Dr. Paulsen continues, as Ferring Pharmaceuticals proudly carries on a culture of enterprise driven by science, not profit,” he concluded.
The Philippines is the 56th country where Ferring has its own operations. For more information, simply visit the company Web site, www.ferring.com.