Specialty drug APIs are both a blessing and a challenge for pharmaceutical companies. They are essential for treating patients and saving lives. The demand for them is high, which promises revenue growth. However, even in the extremely lucrative market of APIs — the API market was valued at around $228.5 billion in 2022 and is expected to expand at a 6.5% CAGR through 2023 — the hurdles around specialty drug APIs remain. The high demand has drawn many companies to invest in these products, but many find they aren’t prepared to properly scale specialty APIs due to the difficulties in the process.
In this article, we explain some of the common challenges that drug companies face when working with specialty drug APIs, as well as some ways to mitigate those challenges with the right contract manufacturing partner.
Specialty drug APIs have high complexity and diversity of chemical structures and synthesis routes. Companies must have a team with deep expertise and experience in organic chemistry, analytical chemistry, process development, and scaling to manufacture these products. Even if a company can find the right talent, the synthesis is still complex. Each drug is different and requires a unique, detailed mapping of how process conditions may affect product quality.
One effective approach to tackle this complexity is to outsource development, scale-up, and manufacturing to a contract manufacturer who specializes in these kinds of drugs. Collaborating with an organization such as Neuland, which is equipped with a dedicated state-of-the-art R&D center with around 300 scientists skilled in complex chemistry and process development, ensures your organization has access to the requisite expertise and resources for success.
Another challenge facing pharmaceutical companies is the stringent quality and regulatory requirements for specialty drug APIs. These drugs demand rigorous testing, validation, documentation, and compliance with global standards such as USFDA, EMA, PMDA, etc.
The regulatory and quality requirements become even more complex for global companies. Different countries and regions have separate guidelines about the manufacturing of APIs and highly active drugs (for example, Europe’s EMA, China’s CFDA, Mexico’s COFEPRIS, USFDA, Canada’s Health Canada, Brazil’s ANVISA, and India’s CDSCO).
ActaBiomed, a clinical medicine journal, published an article that suggested that the best way to overcome these regulatory challenges is to standardize requirements across countries as well as across drug types. Many regulatory bodies use words like “some” and “certain” when describing which regulations apply to which kinds of chemicals that must be manufactured separately. Harmonization among countries and establishing a common scientific language could significantly increase manufacturing efficiency and ease regulatory confusion.
Until then, how can drug sponsors manage the complexities of global regulatory bodies? One solution is to work with a manufacturer, such as Neuland, with expertise in specialty drug APIs. Manufacturers with this expertise can synthesize, manufacture, and supply APIs and advanced intermediates for specialty drugs, especially those that target rare or orphan diseases. These companies can also offer their customers cost-effective synthesis, IP protection, and regulatory support.
The high cost and risk of developing and manufacturing specialty drug APIs is another challenge for pharmaceutical companies. These APIs often require significant investments in R&D, infrastructure, and equipment. Even when an organization successfully develops a specialty drug API, there are still many expensive risks, such as:
Two recommendations on how pharmaceutical companies can address risk and cost challenges include:
Neuland minimizes risks with our dedicated mini plant for scaling up new products. We also have a process safety lab for evaluating the hazards of chemical reactions. Neuland conducts safety studies to assess the potential risks associated with the manufacturing processes used to produce drug substances and to implement appropriate measures to mitigate these hazards and ensure the safety of workers, the environment, and the final product.
Development of specialty drug APIs is also hampered by the intense competition and innovation in the Specialty Drug API market. The industry requires constant monitoring of the latest trends, technologies, and opportunities for differentiation and value addition.
One contributing factor to the fierce competition is the increasing complexity of novel targeted therapeutics and the lack of in-house manufacturing expertise. According to researchers at Imperial College London, this has led to an increase in mergers and acquisition (M&A) and outsourcing strategies, making it harder for smaller companies and startups to succeed against global corporations with more funding.
Neuland’s core values help our clients succeed in this competitive environment. These values include customer-centricity, reliability, accountability, ownership, openness, and transparency. We also offer a no-compromise policy of not competing with our customers for finished products.
Contact us today to see how Neuland can help you overcome barriers and launch a successful specialty drug API product.
To be successful, pharmaceutical innovators and biotech organizations need to optimize production and achieve higher yields of their active pharmaceutical ingredients to make products more cost-effective. To realize these results, proper scale optimization is vital.
To learn more about how scale optimization projects unfold and how they can be achieved most effectively, we sat down with Dr. Mahender Rao Siripragada, president of R&D at Neuland Laboratories.
A: Basically, scale optimization involves improving and optimizing the manufacturing process of pharmaceutical products, with the goal of increasing production efficiency, reducing costs, and ensuring consistent product quality.
Key aspects of every project include a comprehensive analysis of the existing manufacturing process, an assessment of scale-up considerations, process optimization to maximize productivity and minimize variability, technology evaluation, risk assessment and mitigation, validation and regulatory compliance, implementation, monitoring, and strategies to ensure continuous improvement over time.
In addition, there’s a lot of multi-departmental collaboration throughout the entire project. Our cross-functional teams include process engineers, scientists, quality control experts, regulatory specialists, and manufacturing personnel to ensure success.
A: Process research and design are the most critical stages because they ensure the development and manufacturing of high quality, safe and effective drugs.
Process research involves exploring new technologies and methods that can be used to manipulate chemicals in compounds to create new drug products. This may focus on developing new methods of synthesis or improving existing manufacturing processes.
Process design, on the other hand, involves taking the results of the process research and designing processes that can efficiently and effectively produce the API on a large scale. That involves selecting appropriate equipment, defining critical process parameters, and setting quality standards that ensure that each batch produced is a high quality during the process research phase. Chemists and researchers work together to understand the chemistry of the compounds and identify potential routes to synthesis. They also use computer modelling laboratory experiments.
Another approach is to enhance the synthesis process to ensure that it is safe and effective. Process engineers and chemists work together to design the manufacturing processes for the API determine where it can be optimized and establish critical process parameters — the points in the manufacturing process that have the most significant impact on quality. These must be carefully controlled to ensure the safety and efficacy of the drugs produced.
A: That depends on the specific drug product being produced and the scale of production required. If the current process is inefficient or produces a low yield, it may require significant optimization. On the other hand, if the manufacturing process is already fairly efficient, the scale optimization may be more focused on fine-tuning the process to improve yield or reduce costs. Scale optimization can also be an ongoing process as new technologies and methods are developed.
A: Route Scouting Scale optimization is about making an existing active pharmaceutical ingredient manufacturing process more efficient. It aims to improve the process so that it yields the desired outcomes while minimizing costs and environmental impact, as well as ensuring that the produced batch meets regulatory requirements.
on the other hand, is focused on identifying new ways of synthesizing an API. This happens in the early stages of development when researchers aim to determine the most efficient and cost-effective process. In route scouting, various options are proposed and explored to identify the most optimal way.
In summary, scale optimization focuses on improving an existing process, while route scouting aims to find a new and better process. In both cases, the goal is to ensure the optimization of manufacturing processes, resulting in high quality drugs that meet regulatory requirements.
A: There are quite a few. I’ll try to summarize them quickly.
At the top of the list are process control and quality assurance. These are crucial to maintaining consistent quality in every pharmaceutical manufacturing process. Developing robust process control strategies and implementing quality assurance measures throughout the chemical process development are demanding but essential tasks. They include monitoring critical process parameters, implementing analytical techniques, and ensuring batch-to-batch consistency.
Ensuring the safety of the chemical processes and compliance with regulatory requirements are also critical challenges. Pharmaceutical companies must adhere to strict quality standards, Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP), and environmental regulations. It’s our job to ensure they can demonstrate the safety and efficacy of the processes and products to regulatory authorities.
Moving from laboratory-scale to large-scale production is another significant hurdle. Every process must be scalable to meet the demand for commercial production while maintaining product quality and consistency. Factors such as equipment design, raw material availability, and process control need to be considered during scale-up.
Then there’s time to market. The pharmaceutical industry is highly competitive, and getting new drugs to market quickly is essential. Developing and optimizing chemical processes within tight timelines requires efficient project management, collaboration between different teams, and effective communication.
Cost is always a major concern. Developing new chemical processes for pharmaceutical manufacturing can be expensive. In the first place, the industry must invest in research and development, equipment, facilities, and skilled personnel. The cost of scaling up a process from the laboratory to commercial production can also be significant.
Developing efficient and high-yield chemical processes is essential in order to optimize production and minimize costs. Pharmaceutical companies aim to maximize the yield of the desired product while minimizing waste and by-products. This requires expertise in process optimization, reaction engineering, and separation techniques.
New chemical processes involve intellectual property considerations. Pharmaceutical companies invest significant resources in research and development, so protecting their proprietary knowledge and innovations is crucial. They must navigate patent laws and ensure that their processes remain confidential and secure.
Last but certainly not least is environmental impact. Sustainability and reducing the environmental footprint of pharmaceutical manufacturing is gaining increasing importance. There’s growing demand to develop chemical processes that minimize waste generation, energy consumption, and the use of hazardous materials. Companies need to explore greener alternatives and adopt environmentally friendly practices.
Addressing these challenges requires a multidisciplinary approach, involving chemists, engineers, regulatory experts, and other professionals to overcome technical, regulatory, and operational hurdles. Collaboration between industry and academia can also play a vital role in tackling these challenges and advancing the field of pharmaceutical process development.
A: Neuland’s vast technical and scientific expertise in route scouting is helping our partners identify the best, most feasible and cost-effective routes of synthesis for the API they want to manufacture. We bring strong experience in supply chain management to the process, which helps identify the best options for potential vendors. Our dedicated analytical team enables feasibility studies to be completed very quickly.
The advantages of strong technical expertise, seamless coordination between cross-functional teams, along with the quality policies adopted by our management have established Neuland as one of the best API/CMS manufacturers in the world.
Contact us today to discuss your next scale optimization or route scouting project.
The development of drug substances heavily depends on a thorough and precise understanding of its different processes. One of these critical steps is crystallization, which has a significant impact on the properties of active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs). By optimizing the approaches to crystallization, we can improve the stability, solubility, and bioavailability of APIs, which are essential factors in the successful development of effective drugs.
What is Crystallization?
Crystallization refers to the transformation of molecules or atoms from a liquid or gaseous state into a solid state. This process results in the formation of crystals, which are pure substances with atoms arranged in a well-defined and rigid crystal lattice to minimize their energy state.
The properties of the solid state, including the size, shape, and internal structure (morphology) of the crystals, can have a significant impact on the performance of a drug.
In drug development, various types of crystallization processes are utilized, such as cooling, evaporation, and reactive crystallization. Each of these methods offers distinct advantages. The selection of the appropriate process depends on factors such as the nature of the drug, required purity levels, and specific physical and chemical properties of the active pharmaceutical ingredient (API).
Challenges in Crystallization
Crystallization, an essential aspect of pharmaceutical manufacturing, presents a range of obstacles. Its complex nature, combined with the need for precise outcomes, demands specialized expertise and resources.
Consistency is vital for the development of active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs). It is necessary to achieve consistent results in successive crystallization runs conducted under identical conditions. However, due to the process’s sensitivity to even slight variations in factors like temperature, supersaturation levels, and stirring rates, maintaining reproducibility is often difficult.
To achieve reliable results, your contract manufacturing partner must possess expertise in the crystallization process. This expertise enables them to select the appropriate process parameters, facilitating consistent production of crystals with the desired size, shape, and purity while minimizing downstream processing issues.
The shape and size of crystals, known as crystal morphology, can significantly impact a drug’s physical and chemical properties, including solubility, stability, and bioavailability. However, predicting and controlling crystal morphology is a complex task that necessitates a profound understanding of the solute-solvent interaction, nucleation and growth rates, and the conditions of the crystallization process.
Even trace amounts of impurities can disrupt the crystallization process, leading to issues such as alterations in crystal structure, hindered crystal growth, and even failed crystallization. Controlling impurities originating from both the solute and the solvent is a crucial challenge in pharmaceutical crystallization.
Laboratory-scale crystallization often does not seamlessly translate to larger-scale production due to variations in parameters like mixing and heat transfer. The scale-up process typically requires iterative adjustments and is time-consuming, as careful optimization is necessary to maintain product quality and process efficiency.
Polymorphism refers to a compound’s ability to exist in multiple crystal structures, each with distinct physical properties. While polymorphism offers opportunities for optimizing drug properties, it also presents challenges in controlling which polymorphic form is obtained during crystallization. Undesired polymorphic transformations can occur during storage or processing, negatively impacting the drug’s properties.
Crystallization Process Steps
Each step in the complex crystallization process plays an essential role in shaping the final product.
Selection of the appropriate solvent is the key first step in the process. You must consider solubility and safety when choosing the proper solvent.
Crystallization begins once supersaturation, a state where the concentration of the solute surpasses the solvent’s ability to dissolve it under specific conditions, is achieved. This imbalance is typically attained by manipulating temperature, reaction, evaporation, or pressure to exceed the solute’s natural solubility in the solvent. The delicate dance of this manipulation is integral, as the degree of supersaturation influences both the rate of nucleation and crystal growth that follows.
Following supersaturation, the solution undergoes nucleation. Here, solute molecules or atoms dispersed in the solvent start to congregate into stable clusters, forming a nucleus. This aggregation is the seed from which a crystal will grow. Precise control over nucleation is crucial, as the number of nuclei formed will dictate the number of crystals and inversely affect their size.
Once the nucleus forms, the stage of crystal growth commences. Additional solute molecules continue to deposit onto the existing nuclei. As they arrange in a defined, repeating pattern, the crystal begins to grow.
This stage is key to determining the crystal’s size, shape, and quality. Several factors can influence this growth, such as temperature, agitation, and the rate of supersaturation reduction. Striking a balance between development and nucleation is often the key to achieving the desired crystal size distribution.
The final step in the crystallization process is removing and isolating the crystals from the remaining solution. This isolation is typically accomplished using filtration or centrifugation, followed by a drying step to remove residual solvent. It’s important to handle the crystals gently during these steps to prevent damage or alteration to their carefully grown structures.
Common Crystallization Parameters and Transformations
Understanding the parameters involved in crystallization is vital for process control and optimization. Some of the common parameters include supersaturation levels, temperature, and pH. Monitoring and managing these parameters helps ensure optimal conditions for crystal formation.
Transformations are changes in solid forms during or after crystallization. They could involve polymorphic transformations (changes in crystal structure), amorphous to crystalline transformations, and desolvation (loss of solvent from solvate crystals).
Neuland’s Expertise in Crystallization
Our research team at Neuland focused on enhancing the physicochemical properties of Voxelotor, an API utilized for treating sickle cell disease. Voxelotor is a Class II drug with poor solubility. To address this issue, we employed crystallization techniques, resulting in significant improvements.
The outcomes of our study, titled “Physicochemical aspects and comparative analysis of Voxelotor and its salt and cocrystal,” were recently published in the Journal of Molecular Structure. The cocrystal of Voxelotor with Succinic acid exhibited notable enhancements in solubility and stability compared to the free base form. This work highlights our unwavering commitment to advancing drug development by employing innovative crystallization approaches.
Crystallization impacts multiple aspects of a drug’s quality and performance. Navigating the complexities of this process requires a deep understanding of crystallization chemistry, expertise in process control, and the ability to solve inherent challenges.
Contact us today if you want to improve stability, solubility, and bioavailability.
There have been significant changes in the pharmaceutical industry over the past few years, and some of them have led to significant breakthroughs. One example is the growth of deuterated chemistry in the biopharma space.
With demand soaring for new drugs and medications, deuterated drugs can address a wide variety of problems at an affordable price. Deuteration chemistry has become a popular emerging frontier with tremendous potential to provide medications with improved pharmaco-kinetic and toxicological profiles.
What do pharmaceutical companies and product managers need to know about deuterated drugs, and how could they help you improve your processes?
What Is Deuteration Chemistry?
First, it’s important to discuss the meaning of ‘deuteration chemistry.’ It refers to using deuterium instead of hydrogen in the molecular structure. Hydrogen, the first element on the periodic table, has one electron, one proton, and no neutrons. Deuterium is similar to hydrogen in that it has one proton and one electron, but it also has a neutron. This makes deuterium an isotope of hydrogen, but the extra neutron adds some additional weight to the atom. Deuterated drugs exhibit superior pharmaco-kinetic or toxicological properties due to stronger deuterium–carbon bonds.
The incorporation of deuterium further leads to increased chemical stability, which is reflected by its slower rate of metabolism in the human body when ingested.
What Are the Advantages of Deuterated Drugs?
There are some significant advantages of deuterated drugs. One of the immediate benefits is that deuterated drugs typically possess a much longer half-life (e.g., the amount of time it takes the body to metabolize the medication).
The C-D bond is approximately 10 times stronger than the C-H bond, so it takes much longer for the body to break down the medication. A deuterated drug is much more resistant to enzymatic cleavage, which means that deuterated drugs will stay in the body for a longer amount of time.
Some of the main advantages of a longer drug half-life include:
Deuterated drugs can reduce expenses during the research process and help bring new medications to the market more quickly.
Traditional drugs with a C-H bond can fail testing for a variety of reasons, including:
Deuterated drugs can sidestep these issues because they are more efficient and less prone to side effects. They also have access to streamlined approval processes with the FDA. Because many of these issues can be avoided with stable deuterated drugs, clinical trials tend to focus almost exclusively on pharmacokinetics and toxicity, streamlining the approval process and helping companies get new medications to the market more quickly.
Where Does Deuterium Come From?
Clearly, there are a lot of advantages that deuterium can provide in the world of pharmaceuticals, but where exactly does it come from? It is true that hydrogen is significantly more common in the environment than deuterium, so deuterium enrichment is a vital part of the manufacturing process. Heavy water (D2O) produced through the deuterium enrichment is the most convenient source of deuterium.
We manufacture advance deuterated reagents, starting from heavy water (D2O) and deuterated methanol. This process has multiple stages, and we combine the result with the appropriate API to provide our clients with the target compound.
Neuland and Deuteration
Because of the stronger carbon deuterium bonds, deuterated drugs often demonstrate superior pharmacokinetic and toxicological properties. A handful of deuterated drugs have been approved, and many clinical trials continue to move forward.
Neuland Labs is proud to be an industry leader in this developing niche, and is a commercial supplier of deuterated APIs. If you would like to learn more about how we can help you take advantage of deuteration chemistry to improve a therapeutic API, contact us today.
Respected Irish business Niall FitzGerald once said, “Sustainability is here to stay or we may not be.” A supporter of sustainable business initiatives in Europe, he has also pointed out that capital markets are mass migrating towards higher ESG scores.
The pharma industry is one of the world’s largest, accounting for nearly $1.5 trillion in revenue in 2021. It has an equally large environmental footprint, consuming enormous volumes of water, and generates chemical and material waste. Pharma is also 55% more emissions-intensive than the auto industry. As much as 80% of this consumption has been attributed to manufacturing operations.
To truly achieve sustainability, the industry will need to rethink and transform manufacturing processes – from product design to distribution of goods.
If you’re thinking “yes, we need to get started doing this,” here’s some good news: the push to discover new approaches is already well underway – both here at Neuland and in the broader drug development and manufacturing industry. Breakthroughs – like the examples below – are often refined, adapted, examined and re-examined… some may become established SOP. These three examples impact areas critical to the pharma industry, spanning energy consumption, resource utilization and waste reduction.
Researchers at the University of California Santa Barbara have developed a process for reducing carboxylic acids to aldehydes and alcohols in water, without reagents, precious metals and specialized ligands.
Researchers in Italy and the UK have developed a process which uses green reagents to selectively remove metals like nickel, then copper, silver and gold from various discarded electronic devices for re-use as catalysts in pharmaceutical chemistry.
According to Fierce Pharma, global consulting firm Oliver Wyman reports that pharma companies are making commitments to environmental sustainability, but practical barriers make it difficult to deliver on that commitment.
Pharma is Growing. Resource Requirements Need to Shrink.
As the drug industry continues to grow in size and volume, the industry’s emissions and resource usage are growing alongside it. Managing increasing energy consumption and environmental pollution at scale are no longer simply business continuity issues, they have become existential challenges. At scale, improving process design efficiency has across-the-board implications – potentially lowering waste and effluent production, energy requirements, water usage, resource extraction and more. Selectively employing single-use systems, for example, can make sense – depending on batch sizes and end-target product volumes.
Neuland Labs is proud to be a part of the journey discovering the right balance of measures the drug manufacturing industry can take.
Emphasizing Sustainability at Neuland Labs
Sustainability and environmental health and safety have been a focus at Neuland for years, but recently our commitment to sustainability was formalized among senior leadership as a guiding principle for our strategic priorities.
Communication with stakeholders has been – and will continue to be – critical to our efforts, spanning investors, board members, workers, clients, suppliers, the community and regulators.
According to Dr. Davuluri Rama Mohan Rao, Executive Chairman of Neuland Labs:
“By obtaining insights from 125 of our stakeholders across different sectors, we identified six key themes of sustainability: environmental stewardship, sustainable supply chain, employee nurturing, upholding human rights and ethics, economic value creation, and customer centricity. We used these goals to create a framework for sustainability at Neuland.”
Below we explore four of those areas in-depth.
1. Environmental Stewardship
While sustainability emphasizes the need for environmentally responsible products and services, the means to achieve it are often industry- or scale-dependent. A manufacturer, for instance, may have a very different read on sustainable practices than a consultant.
For us, minimizing the impact of manufacturing processes on environmental resources and further preserving them is a key priority. Our aim is to achieve zero landfill waste and become water-positive and carbon neutral by 2030.
Although the pandemic created some hurdles in the development of environmental protection infrastructure and improvement activities, we created a five-fold lower environmental impact in FY 21–22 over FY 20–21. To address greenhouse gas emissions and climate change, we initiated a low carbon pathway plan. Our carbon usage has gone down by 15% after a switch from double- to single-product washing cycles.
We also created a water management strategy focused on lowering water requirements and increasing the use of recycled water in our operations. All of our sites have adopted a “Zero Wastewater Discharge” policy, and we have two-stage high-pressure reverse osmosis systems that recycle 92–94% of our treated wastewater.
One area of focus for us is improving material efficiency. We’ve seen a 50% reduction in heptane and ethyl acetate use in ezetimibe manufacturing.
We are committed to the “wealth from waste” principle. One key target for us has been to achieve “zero land fill” for FY 23. As of August 2022, 100% of our total waste was being sent for recycling and co-processing in the cement industry.
2. Creating Sustainable Supply Chains
Last month, we explored supply chain sustainability and how our supplier assessment matrix includes not only delivery and quality metrics but also environmental and social measurements.
Pharma manufacturing requires key starting materials, intermediates, and specialty materials. The suppliers of these are the focus of Neuland’s sustainable supply chain efforts. Our supply chain team is trained in sustainable procurement practices and plays a key role in our development of domestic supply chains and a diversified vendor base. Our suppliers are required to adhere to a four-part code of conduct including human rights, ethical business practices, regulatory compliance, and safe operation conditions. The result has been geographical de-risking, a shortening of our supply chain, and an increased emphasis on ensuring our supply chain is diverse and inclusive.
3. Safeguarding Employee and Community Wellbeing
Employees are the heart of every company. At Neuland, we employ rigorous audit systems to safeguard employees from occupational injuries. Our team members undergo complete annual health check-ups and medical monitoring programs. To create a culture of sustainable business practices, personnel are trained on ethical compliance practices and behaviors to ensure we are adhering to regulatory policies and maintaining international quality standards.
As part of our broader focus on creating sustainable communities, we work to address community challenges through CSR initiatives targeting education, health, infrastructure development, and water availability.
4. Enabling Customer Interaction & Protecting Their Interests
Customers are a key component of the sustainability matrix. As a result, we seek customer input on specific ESG requirements.
A key aspect of protecting our customers involves the use of digital technologies. Such tools enable closer communication and interaction, improving real-time decision-making. Data-driven analysis allows us to create better, safer, more efficient and more sustainable manufacturing processes.
Our growing collective reliance on digital technology to improve our ability to drive value for customers also creates new risks. As an API manufacturer, we understand how crucial our customers’ and partners’ intellectual property rights are, as is the need to maintain strict confidentiality. Our strong digital cybersecurity and data privacy frameworks are designed based on the most relevant and highest-quality standards, and have eliminated any instances of identified leaks, thefts, or losses of customer data as well as security breaches.
Supply chain disruptions leading to drug shortages aren’t a new challenge. In fact, the FDA maintains a database of current shortages. But the problem appears to have become more pervasive over the last few years.
According to the World Economic Forum, multiple nations around the world are experiencing essential drug shortages. A survey conducted by the Pharmaceutical Group of the European Union noted medicine shortages in the 29 EU-member countries from mid-November 2022 through December 2022. Interestingly, 76% reported shortages that were worse than those experienced in 2021.
European nations are not alone. Hospitals in the US lack adequate supplies of liquid ibuprofen. Other drugs in high demand but short supply include Tamiflu, Amoxicillin, and Adderall. In Argentina, supply chain issues have inflated the cost of cancer medications by more than 50%, while Panama currently has the most expensive drug costs in Latin America.
All these issues are the direct result of breakdowns in pharmaceutical supply chains.
Effective supply chain management depends heavily on information- and data sharing up and down the entirety of the supply chain. Supply chain breakdowns, as seen during the pandemic, typically result from a lack of forethought, collaboration, or management in place to remedy the supply chain deficit. The impacts felt over the last several years have resulted in a tremendous shift in supply chain management approaches, with an emphasis on supply continuity.
As we’ve all now experienced, when supply chain management (SCM) is ineffective, the results are quickly felt by consumers…and have serious repercussions. Wallace J. Hopp, a University of Michigan professor, explains:
“Disruptions in medical product supply chains have greater implications than making people wait for a new television set. They have the potential to seriously compromise patient care.”
Managing the Links of the Pharmaceutical Supply Chain
Pharmaceutical supply chains include a sophisticated network of partners— suppliers, manufacturers, storage facilities, and distributors—all working to supply, produce, deliver, and sell quality drug products. These global systems involve numerous processes, individuals, policies and technologies, and their effective management is indispensable to the success of the pharmaceutical industry.
Mitigating supply chain risk demands continual vigilance in which every component and stage of the process is scrutinized and strategized.
It is not enough to merely identify risk. Companies must address potential issues with prompt and calculated actions and remain constantly alert to supplier issues.
Logistics challenges have been magnified by increasingly complex drug products. For example, many compounds – including those associated with mRNA vaccines – require refrigeration. The resulting cold chain logistics necessary to maintain product integrity have led to an increase in the risk of nonconformity.
Thankfully, Neuland’s commercial cold chain shipments have suffered no temperature outages, and every product for which we are responsible has remained in conformance. Our cold chain logistics success is directly attributed to having built reliable collaborations.
Maintaining Supply Chain Quality and Timeliness
The last few years have been a challenge for companies operating on a global scale. We’re proud of our successes despite the broader, global impacts felt across supply chains. Robust planning, strong communications, and a “proactive preparedness” approach have proven critical to consistent, secure product supply.
Here are eight aspects of supply chain management that we have found ensure product quality and availability are never sacrificed.
1. Risk Management
The proper management of risk helps control future outcomes through the proactive identification of risk factors, the determination of a risk’s impact, and the development of risk mitigation and prevention strategies.
For example, we have a dedicated Enterprise Risk Management (ERM) team at Neuland. This group of experts employs agility and foresight to ensure prompt and adequate responses to unforeseen risks. The team keeps a finger on the pulse of rapidly evolving demand patterns and consumer behaviors. They readily anticipate the need to reconfigure current strategies, processes, structure, personnel, or technology.
Rather than wait until a problem occurs, we proactively review potential scenarios and develop strategic answers in case a scenario materializes. The ERM team ensures viable options are already in place when unforeseen events arise.
The agility of this group was particularly evident during the COVID-19 pandemic. Neuland was able to navigate the challenges with minimal impact on our operations. Our effective risk management has been a testament to our reliability as a business partner and has made us a preferred choice for customers attempting to navigate the unpredictable global environment.
2. Vendor Depth and Selection
A ready pool of qualified vendors is necessary to ensure that there are sufficient suppliers. If a supplier is unavailable or becomes unsuitable, an approved backup should already be in place. The security of the supply chain is jeopardized any time an essential supplier vacates its position in the chain or performs at a subpar level. Proper manufacturer selection can result in:
Upstream processes significantly impact downstream processes. With raw material suppliers, for example, we use an active collaboration approach. We involve suppliers early in the development process, identify and strengthen areas of improvement prior to commercial supplies, and set clear expectations on specs, methods, governance and sustainability. This also includes multiple shipment tracking re-opening schedules, and closely monitoring outstanding receivables.
Pharma companies should always work with active pharmaceutical ingredient (API) contract manufacturers that are familiar with regulatory starting materials (RSMs), understand the chemistry, and have well-established sourcing procedures in place.
3. Logistics Improvements
As discussed above, logistics challenges have increased due to the growing complexity of drug compounds. Drug sponsors should be aware of the logistics dependencies their compound demands, and what potential impacts could occur as a result.For example, Neuland has secured new partnerships with GDP-certified logistics organizations. These new collaborations have expanded our ability to meet the needs of our customers without jeopardizing the quality standards.
4. Database Searches
When looking to enhance supplier management, a thorough and consistent review of high-quality certified databases, such as Directory of World Chemical Producers (IVQIA) and Row2Technologies, is essential. A deep search and a due diligence can unearth new sourcing options for specific APIs and their intermediates. Search results can be lackluster, however, if NCEs are involved and commercial RSM options are limited. When options are restricted, a research and development team may be called upon to develop a cost-efficient manufacturing process that can facilitate manufacturing through an external source.
5. Embracing Technology to Improve Operations & Supple Chain Visibility
Embracing industry advancements is crucial for any pharmaceutical company who wants to remain flexible, reduce costs and maximize supply chain visibility. Advancements in flow chemistry and enzymatic chemistry which improve yields and process efficiency are examples of technology impacting operations – and ultimately supply chains. At Neuland, for instance, we’ve found they can shorten processing times, increase production capacities, increase purities, and more.
Another aspect of technology – the digitization of our supply chains – data analytics, AI and automation are being leveraged to improve process efficiency and precision. Data-driven insights are helping to lower costs, improve forecasts and prioritize consumer health. Having real-time supply chain data is a must. It brings new levels of understanding to mixed-level details and material capacities, which in turn helps optimize production.
6. Inventory Management
Inventory management can be a trade-off, exchanging market service for servicing costs. Operationally, unavailability results in longer cycles, expiry-related issues, and regulatory requirements that reduce flexibility from inventory management. This is a double threat for generic drugs that straddle global markets, combining the regulated with the less regulated. Additionally, demand patterns have evolved with the pandemic, becoming more erratic. This has further accentuated the complexity of pharmaceutical supply chains. The risk of stock accumulation is also an important consideration. Some stocks should be increased at various localities given the risk of supply chain disruption from unforeseen events, while others should not.
7. Supply Chain Sustainability
Sustainable supply chains should remain a priority in your de-risking strategies. As an illustration, we have enhanced our supplier assessment matrix and added items that help lower supply chain risk. The assessment covers 80% of essential suppliers and 40% of all procurement. However, by 2025, we plan to cover 100% of suppliers in the sustainable supplier assessment plan. Our Supplier Sustainability Assessment Matrix includes the following assessments:
Due to our commitment to sustainability, we were awarded the prestigious Silver Sustainability Rating by Eco Vadis. Although we have made great strides, we continue our quest for all-inclusive, sustainable growth in the pharmaceutical industry.
8. Proactive Readiness
We’ve all learned that supply chain issues can arise unexpectedly and should be addressed promptly. We’ve found it best to take a proactive approach based on risk analysis. For example, Neuland maintains full visibility throughout the supply chain, allowing us to anticipate and avoid possible pitfalls.Being proactive helped us avoid prospective supply chain interruptions at the height of the pandemic. By increasing the inventory of key precursors that were critical to the functionality of our suppliers, we were able to repeatedly circumvent potential shortages and mitigate costs.
Interested in learning more about how Neuland leverages strong supply chain management practices to keep your drug API project on track and secure? Let’s chat – contact us today!
Just as COVID was making itself known in February 2020, the FDA was approving Esperion Therapeutics’ new first-in-class medication for the treatment of adults with heterozygous familial hypercholesterolemia or established atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease who require additional lowering of LDL-C.
The emerging coronavirus and the FDA approval would converge as Esperion planned on expanding Bempedoic Acid supply at Neuland in 2020, setting up a challenging manufacturing environment for this potentially ground-breaking drug.
Esperion Therapeutics’ NEXLETOL® & NEXLIZET®
Esperion Therapeutics began working with Neuland Labs prior to the pandemic to support expansion of Bempedoic Acid, the major active ingredient in NEXLETOL® and NEXLIZET®. In 2019, we entered into a technology transfer and supply agreement for the subsequent commercial API production of Esperion’s New Chemical Entity (NCE), bempedoic acid.
Overcoming a Challenging Pandemic Manufacturing Environment
The Esperion project encompassed technology transfer, pilot batch production, scale-up studies, process validation and production of commercial quantities of the Bempedoic acid API.
Neuland and Esperion worked together to put supporting processes in place. This ensured Esperion’s Process, Analytical, Engineering and Supply Chain teams possessed remote monitoring capabilities and could provide virtual guidance in real-time.
Developing and implementing this level of communication and access proved critical to every facet of the project, from technology transfer and production of pilot batches, to process validation (PPQ), global regulatory filings and – ultimately – commercial production. All documentation was reviewed and approved online by Esperion. The intercompany team reviewed the project twice weekly, with technical meetings focusing on scale-up of both the intermediate as well as bempedoic acid API.
Managing Through an Operational Slowdown
In terms of manpower management, lockdowns and strict safety protocols meant that our staff strength was, by necessity, reduced to 50% of pre-pandemic levels. To account for these manpower constraints, we prioritized the team working on Esperion’s bempedoic acid.
Facility and equipment readiness during the lockdown also posed additional challenges. Systems which were idled for extended periods needed to be prepared and brought back online.
Managing Difficult Supply Chains
COVID caused a slow-moving (and still – to some degree – ongoing) supply chain challenge. As the pandemic progressed through early- and mid-2020, two supply chain complications became all-too-common: uncertainty and interruptions.
While unsurprisingly, supply chain logistics did cause challenges in import/export, shipping of reference standards, impurity standards and samples, they were generally minimized.
We had already taken steps to ensure alternative supplier readiness in the event of supply chain delays or disruptions. In this particular case, however, the client’s vendors were already qualified. This meant that the project could rapidly shift to validation and commercialization work.
Outcome: Project Success
Our team was tasked with implementing the process outlined during technology transfer. The process and specifications were therefore in-line with the expectations set by Esperion. Consistent and regular remote collaborative work with the various in-house teams at Esperion allowed us to complete technology transfer, process validation and approval of Neuland in the global regulatory filings on-time.
We’re proud to say that the story does not end there. After successful scale-up, commercial production of the bempedoic acid was shifted from Neuland’s R&D Centre to one of the manufacturing units in Hyderabad, India for continued commercial production of global supply.
In late 2022, Esperion announced that their Cholesterol Lowering via Bempedoic acid, an ACL-Inhibiting Regimen (CLEAR) Outcomes trial met its primary endpoint, demonstrating statistically significant risk reduction in MACE-4 in patients treated with 180 mg/day NEXLETOL® compared to placebo.
Neuland is honoured to play a critical role with Esperion, providing prescribers innovative options to reduce LDL-cholesterol and overall potential cardiovascular risk for patients.
We continue investing in agile development and manufacturing capabilities to quickly respond to our customer’s needs. With the experience of working with Esperion, we have been able to successfully place processes to manage projects effectively minimising the need for on-site or in-person interactions.
While the pandemic may be behind us, we are seeing an increasing need for a CDMO to be self-reliant and self-driven to execute API expansion projects. In that context, working with Esperion has been a highly enriching experience for Neuland.
A study by research and sustainability data firm ESG Book has concluded that investments in companies with good ESG performance have generally yielded higher returns than the average within their broader market.
“The overwhelming weight of accumulated research finds that companies that pay attention to environmental, social and governance concerns do not experience a drag on value creation—in fact, quite the opposite,” noted a McKinsey report published in 2016.
Pharmaceutical companies are in a unique position when it comes to ESG. They work with chemicals – some of them dangerous if workers are exposed or they are disposed of improperly. They make medicines that can save lives, provided individuals can affordably access them. For this reason, pharmaceutical companies’ ESG profiles are increasingly being used to evaluate overall business sustainability.
A Short and Sweet Explanation of ESG
The “E” element in ESG references Environmental impact and sustainability. It considers how effectively and efficiently companies are using natural resources and how they are minimizing the impact of manufacturing and supply chain to reduce environmental consequences. Specifically, the “E” element may involve climate change, waste management, carbon emissions, air and water pollution, energy efficiency, natural resources management, sustainability practices, and water conservation. In the pharmaceutical industry, it includes the adoption of “green chemistry” practices.
“S” is the Social element that focuses on how companies treat their workforces. This involves everything from diversity and inclusion to human rights, health and safety, security, and ethics.
The “G” element in ESG refers to Governance, which involves decision- and policy making, as well as company structure – including the board of directors, managers, shareholders, and stakeholders. Some key indicators are how well the organization is run in terms of business ethics, board composition, reporting, transparency, strict adherence to local laws and environmental rules, risk and crisis management, tax strategy and anti-corruption, and integrity.
Benefits of a Robust ESG Program
While the benefits to the planet are self-evident, the benefits of an ESG program to corporate health and profitability are more nuanced.
Employment advantages. Increasingly, workers – particularly those of the younger generations – use ESG policies to determine which job offers they will accept. This can help limit employee turnover as well as recruiting, hiring, and training costs.
Investor attraction. Investors are becoming aware that higher ESG performance corresponds with higher rates of return, lower risk and better long-term corporate sustainability. A survey conducted last year by Gallup revealed that nearly half of investors – 48 percent – indicated they are very or somewhat interested in purchasing sustainable investing funds. The study also found that 70 percent of investors who are employed full or part time indicated they would definitely (13 percent) or probably (57 percent) include sustainable investing funds as elements of their employer-sponsored 401(k) if they were available.
Avoidance of fines. Misbehavior by manufacturing companies can lead to expensive fines and lawsuits. In the last decade, major pharmaceutical companies have paid out billions in fines for everything from false claims, bribery, off-label promotion, kickbacks, and Medicare fraud. Additionally, careless labor practices can result in expensive occupational injuries and accidents.
More productive employees. Responsible companies are taking employee health more seriously, from COVID-prevention strategies to onsite awareness programs about cardiovascular health, diabetes, stress and diet as well as occupational health-related training. Healthier employees lead to fewer sick days and lower turnover.
A reduction in operating costs. Asset management and predictive maintenance are strong elements of a good ESG policy, and done properly, they can lead to less downtime in manufacturing operations.
Corporate reputation burnishing. Pharmaceutical companies are in a unique position to help people access life-saving drugs at affordable costs. With high drug costs and anti-competitive behavior showing up regularly in the headlines, pharmaceutical companies that build a strong program which gets medications to the people who need them at affordable costs will stand out.
Transparency. At the core of a good ESG program is a boost in awareness and engagement for employees and stakeholders to become active parts of the change. By sharing the main environmental challenges, their objectives and the best practices from the field, companies can multiply the impact of their efforts.
At Neuland, we recognize that the raw materials we draw from the environment for our operations are shared resources, and that we have an obligation to minimize the impact of our operations on these resources and preserve them. For instance, we have implemented a water management strategy that focuses on reducing water consumption and increasing the percentage of recycled water in our operations.
As an organization, we ensure that support is extended to employees in performing their duty towards the environment through a dedicated budget and goal setting to measure the implementation of policies and ISO systems.
All of our sites have adopted a “Zero Wastewater Discharge” approach. During the rainy season, surface water runoff is collected and transferred to the CETP in accordance with the pollution control board’s statutory requirements. Effluent quality is evaluated daily, and third-party monitoring occurs monthly. Finally, we have put in place a strong program for material efficiency that seeks to attain optimal use of raw materials as well as practices that minimize the environmental impact of raw material use.
We have successfully achieved our 2022 environmental goals with:
Our new environmental goals include becoming carbon neutral across our internal operations by 2030 and purchasing 100 percent renewable energy and influencing similar action across our supply chain. Our initiatives have been approved by the United Nations Global Compact (UNGC) and achieved a Silver rating in ECOVADIS sustainable supplier assessment.
Drug developers know that processes which operate in a defined design space can be made more consistent, safer and less prone to deviation.
At Neuland, process development begins in the R&D laboratory with the application of rigorous scientific and engineering tools and methodologies, using Quality by Design (QbD) principles, risk management strategies, and Design of Experiments (DoE) to understand and control processes.
When applied to process development and scale-up, QbD focuses on five key issues:
· Critical Process Parameters (CPP)
· Critical Quality Attributes (CQA)
· Critical Material Attributes (CMA)
· Environment, Health & Safety (EHS)
· Project economics
The objective is to develop and scale a robust, reliable process and transfer it to the manufacturing facilities to ensure that quality product is delivered to our customers every time.
Over the past few years, we’ve expanded our capabilities and equipment with state-of-the-art instrumentation and automation to support QbD approaches with a dedicated Process Engineering (PE) Laboratory. Neuland’s PE Lab is staffed by highly qualified engineers and chemists who are trained in QbD and DoE.
The PE Lab utilizes two DoE software platforms:
Based on experiments to identify the critical quality attributes (CQAs) of an active pharmaceutical ingredient (API) and the critical process parameters (CPPs), our scientists create a robust design space with flexibility built-in to maximize accuracy and reproducibility on scale-up and transfer to a manufacturing facility.
Process monitoring and trend data are collected, analyzed, and used to develop a strategy for continuous process improvement in close collaboration with our customers.
The PE Lab also has provisions to assess the performance of processes in cylindrical reactors (using scale-down to mimic plant conditions). This can help avoid surprises when scaling up at the manufacturing plant due to potential differences when mixing in cylindrical reactors compared to round-bottomed flasks.
Robust process safety practices are essential for any process scale up. Our goal is to prevent the unintentional release of chemicals, energy, or other potentially dangerous materials during the course of chemical processes that can harm workers, equipment, a manufacturing facility, or the environment.
Engineers and scientists in the PE Lab design and conduct process safety studies to understand and assess the potential hazards in processes developed for our Custom Manufacturing Solutions (CMS), Generic Drug Substance (GDS), and Peptides business units.
The results of these studies can then guide the design and engineering of process controls and the development of a risk mitigation plan to reduce the chances for runaway reactions and ensure inherently safer processes at commercial scale.
Here are a sample of process safety practices and equipment commonly used in the PE lab.
Preliminary hazard evaluation/desk screening studies of the reactions are performed. This includes:
The PE Lab uses a Thermal Screening unit (TSu) to study the thermal stability of molecules at high temperatures. The TSu can assess the effects of elevated temperatures (process temperature + 100oC) on:
The TSu uses only approximately 0.5-5g of a sample. Screening studies evaluate the effects of the reaction initiation temperature on molecular stability and of pressure and heat release on chemical decomposition.
The reaction calorimeter in the PE Lab assesses the estimated energy released or absorbed during a chemical reaction. It measures:
This information is useful for understanding the severity of a chemical reaction and – based on the data – Neuland engineers and scientists can recommend control measures to be implemented at plant-scale to ensure inherently safer processes for producing commercial batches.
We’re a big proponent of data-driven approaches. The entire point of drug development is to maximize safety, accelerate development timelines and make the best possible decisions based on an appropriately designed experimental space. QbD fills this vital role of improving and accelerating drug development and commercialization projects.
Customer centricity is central to every organization and an important strategic priority for B2B companies.
While there are many definitions of customer centricity, the ultimate objective of a customer-centric organization is to deliver the desired value customers believe they will receive from a product or service.
This customer experience, in turn, creates value for your organization and translates into repeat business, loyalty and advocacy. Among B2B organizations, customer centricity means meeting customer requirements at an agreeable price while ensuring compliance with regulations and ethical standards.
The strategic concept, developed by renowned management consultant and educator Peter Drucker, prioritizes the needs of the customer.
Drucker birthed the idea in 1954, stating:
“It is the customer who determines what a business is, what it produces, and whether it will prosper.”
Customer centricity hinges on an organization’s ability to anticipate the needs and desires of the customer. Once those needs have been deciphered, a customer-centric company ensures the requirements are met to the customer’s expectations.
The success of the selling organization and that of the B2B customer are strongly interrelated. The B2B customer expects a positive experience, and the selling company desires the organic growth that results from true customer satisfaction. The customer-centric concept promotes customer interaction and respect—two ideals critical to improving the overall customer experience.
Customer centricity involves transformative changes that redirect the focus on customer retention instead of just acquisition. We believe that Jonathan Hughes, David Chapnick, Isaac Block, and Saptak Ray perfectly captured the scope of change necessary to become a customer-centric company:
“Genuine customer-centricity requires transforming all enterprise functions that affect customers, breaking down the silos between those functions, and building a culture that rewards behaviors aligned with customer success.”
Feedback builds trust and brand loyalty, helping strengthen customer retention. This is even more valuable in cases where the feedback has been negative, as it gives you insight into what is needed to address their needs or concerns.
At Neuland, customer centricity is a strategic priority, and we recognize that a customer may not always share unsolicited feedback directly. However, by seeking feedback through surveys and consistent communication, we can gather and analyze behavioral data, then use the information to make strategic operational improvements that deliver desired outcomes.
We find excellent service throughout the entire customer experience, coupled with transparency, leads to greater customer involvement, awareness, and ultimately satisfaction.
We choose not only to meet client expectations but to exceed them through proactive anticipation. We look beyond the expressed need to ensure that we resolve potential failures before they occur.
What’s the value of a customer-centric pharmaceutical API manufacturer?
It means meeting customer requirements at an agreeable price without sacrificing regulatory compliance or ethical standards. Ultimately, the value of customer centricity aligns with our purpose at Neuland: to deliver product and service value to our customers in a way that fosters loyalty, advocacy, and strong ongoing partnerships.