Redefining Innovation and Growth in Pharmaceutical Distribution

Redefining Innovation and Growth in Pharmaceutical Distribution

June 06, 2023PAO-06-23-CL-03

The dynamic nature of the pharmaceutical marketplace creates supply chain uncertainties, an issue that the COVID-19 pandemic evidenced to be critical for many companies. Ongoing investments in its global network and infrastructure enabled Univar Solutions to continue supplying materials and ingredients globally for vaccines, therapeutics, and prophylactics throughout the global health emergency. With technical advancements, global Solution Centers, and innovations redefining the future of distribution, the company continues to make it possible to meet the unique demands of the pharmaceutical industry today and well into the future. Indeed, Univar Solutions will continue to provide reliable and dependable service for customers and supplier partners while simultaneously playing an important role in development and innovation within the pharmaceutical space.

Redefining Distribution

For more than 90 years, Univar Solutions has been involved in the distribution of specialty chemicals and ingredients, always maintaining a footprint within the life sciences industry. Today, operations span across North America, Europe, the Asia Pacific region, and Latin America, including approximately 125 different countries, where the company works collaboratively with suppliers and customers to produce tailor-made solutions and serve as true extensions of their teams.

Univar Solutions’ already extensive distribution network expanded yet again in March 2019 through the acquisition of Nexeo Solutions. The merging of these industry-leading organizations has made it possible for Univar Solutions to redefine distribution and become one of the most valuable chemical and ingredients distributors in the world.

To better understand the way Univar Solutions is transforming the pharmaceutical ingredients distribution space and beyond, Pharma’s Almanac sat down with Univar Solutions’ Global Product Marketing Management Director of Pharmaceutical Ingredients Ernest de Freitas.

“The mission of Univar Solutions is to keep people and communities around the world healthy, fed, clean, and safe. It is a lofty, yet important, mission on which we are able to create real value through specialization within the life science and industrial markets. That specialization allows us to deliver ingredients safely and reliably to our customers while helping them innovate and grow.”

“The pharmaceutical ingredients business within Univar Solutions is dedicated to supporting drug developers and manufacturers across all spectrums and sizes. Our dedicated account managers, sales professionals, product managers, and regulatory and technical experts share a global industry vision while maintaining a regional focus. As a result, Univar Solutions is able to deliver global expertise locally for customers and suppliers alike. Coupling our infrastructure and technologies with our a globally integrated approach makes it possible for us to serve customers with distribution sites all over the world in a centralized and efficient manner,” shares de Freitas.

Benefiting from Market Sector Diversification

While Univar Solutions Pharmaceutical Ingredients is dedicated to its own specific industry, its position within a diverse global company that serves multiple markets, many of which are adjacent to pharmaceuticals, provides significant benefits and a competitive advantage over other distributors in the space.

“The nutraceutical marketplace, for example, is an interesting cross-section between food and pharmaceuticals that, like pharmaceuticals, focuses on the betterment and health of the individual. Many technologies within the pharmaceutical space have applications within the nutraceutical space, particularly excipients.”

“On the flip side, developments in beauty and personal care related to the touch and feel of products have direct applications for products like topical drugs. Pharmaceutical customers and consumers have higher expectations for products. Patients expect that treatments are not only effective, but also offer improved application feel like those offered in the personal care realm. Ideas, expertise, and technology from these other areas of our business enable us to assist in the development of more effective, and often cost-saving, solutions for customers,” de Freitas adds.

Products + Services = Solutions

Univar Solutions’ dedicated pharmaceutical ingredients team aims to deliver strategic insights for both customers and suppliers. Solutions are provided in many different spaces — pharmaceuticals, biologics, ophthalmics, nutraceuticals, animal health, and medical devices — around a wide selection of products, including APIs, pharmaceutical intermediates, high-purity solvents, reactants, and so on.

“A key focus at Univar Solutions is building out our product portfolio to meet the changing dynamics in this constantly evolving industry. For example, we continue to grow our biopharma product portfolio and can support both upstream (cell culture and fermentation) and downstream process needs, from harvesting all the way through purification.”

“We offer value-added benefits and offerings to meet the needs of our customer base. For instance, high-purity solvents are distributed through our global network in a wide range of packaging sizes, ranging from small-volume bottles, pails, and drums suitable for developmental and lab applications, to trucks and railcars that support large-scale operations.” shares de Freitas.

He continues by affirming that Univar Solutions’ work is not just about ingredients. “Our application labs and Solution Centers are an essential part of our business. Major hubs are located around the globe, and technical experts at these sites support customers and suppliers with their challenges, using innovative efforts ranging from formulation development and performance testing to custom blending for various dosage forms and beyond. That is why the “Solutions” part of Univar Solutions is so critical to our mission. We sit at a critical intersection in the supply chain and development cycle, and we aim to serve as a one-stop shop for customers and suppliers alike offering efficiency and effectiveness.”

Built on Customer Relationships and Differentiators in Pharmaceutical Distribution

The formulation support and prototype development that Univar Solutions provides are just two examples of how the company can serve as a true partner to their customers’ success, regardless of their size. The Pharmaceutical Ingredients team supports a wide range of customers from the largest tier one producers to small research and development organizations and startups. The technical specialists within the pharmaceutical application laboratories have the experience needed to help customers with performance and application testing, chemical and product performance analysis, and custom blending for dosage forms such as oral solid dose (OSD), semi-solid, liquid, and topical, and a variety of other challenges.

In addition, Univar Solutions’ logistical footprint and extensive supply chain assets grant them the ability to deliver in a timely manner even in the face of unprecedented global challenges such as the COVID-19 pandemic.

Univar Solutions understands the importance of reliability, especially in the pharmaceutical manufacturing sector. “Customers truly appreciate being able to confidently rely on a distributor that owns its own trucks and facilities, employs its own drivers, and focuses on solutions-based distribution. We work with many customers on the development of their final drug product formulations through our Solution Centers. That is a true differentiator for Univar Solutions within the distribution marketplace,” de Freitas shares with us. 

Trends Driving the Pharmaceutical Industry

Univar Solutions prides itself on conducting significant market research to ensure they have the intellectual knowledge to stay ahead of the industry trends and advise customers and suppliers alike on the market demands and trends of tomorrow. To learn more, we ask de Freitas what he considers to be the most significant trends driving the industry.

“First and foremost, one of the key shifts is an increased focus on and around the end consumer. Formulators are looking to keep the patient front of mind, streamlining their attention and efforts around innovative ingredient formulations. Innovative solutions target consumer/patient comfort and the changing needs and requirements of an aging global population.”

“One excellent example of this is in multi-layer tableting technology. This relatively straightforward solution to traditional dosage forms allows for the incorporation of traditionally incompatible APIs into a single dosage form. Not only does this solution reduce the number of pills patients must take, our customers are learning that it can also deliver significant efficiencies, cost-savings, and sustainability benefits. This technology requires the use of excipients, which Univar Solutions offers customers to make these transformative shifts toward success.”

“Another important trend occurring across the pharmaceutical industry today involves the evolution of dosage forms. This has been largely driven by the increasing potency of APIs coupled with patient pill fatigue. There is a real focus on micro-tableting. While making drugs smaller in size may present new challenges for drug manufacturers, it really opens the door for diversifying drug delivery options for the consumer. One final note worth mentioning here is that we have seen a driving interest in co-processed excipients because of their ability to simplify formulations and enable smaller overall dosage forms.

“A third and final shift that I will mention is that today’s marketplace is being driven by more-informed consumers looking for cleaner product labels with fewer, more natural ingredients, particularly in the OTC space but also with regard to prescription drugs.”

Spotlight on Biologics

Univar Solutions is prepared, especially from a product perspective, to support the growth of the biologics marketplace with a wide range of products and services needed for both upstream and downstream processing. They are also continuing to invest in resources to support that area of the marketplace, bringing on new suppliers with novel product offerings designed to meet current and future customer needs.

“Univar Solutions sees biologics and personalized medicine as central to the future of the global pharmaceutical marketplace. Advances in this area are proceeding rapidly with aggressive research activities within the biotechnology space. In particular, developments in genomics are making it possible to better predict, diagnose, and treat diseases more precisely and personally than ever before. The concept of predicting disease and identifying specific treatments for people will soon become a reality. Additionally, the looming patent cliff for more traditional biopharmaceutical drugs will soon lead to a significant increase in the number of biosimilar products on the market,” adds de Freitas.

Univar Solutions will be ready with a robust and diverse collection of products to support the growing and evolving biopharma and biosimilar marketplace.

Exciting Times within Univar Solutions Pharmaceutical Ingredients

Given the dynamic nature of the pharmaceutical industry, Univar Solutions is constantly seeking relationships with new suppliers and expanding on existing partnerships. Our expert insider shares that one recent example of the latter is the geographical expansion of Univar Solutions’ authorization for SI Group’s ibuprofen across North America and Brazil. SI Group is a key supplier within the API marketplace that the company is proud to add to their expansive list of leading pharmaceutical supply partners.

In addition to partnership and supplier distribution expansions, Univar Solutions has also been active in mergers and acquisitions, with a focus on growing worldwide to better serve customers in an increasingly global pharmaceutical marketplace. “Univar Solutions recently improved its position within Central America with the acquisition of ChemSol, which has operations in Costa Rica, Guatemala, El Salvador, Panama, and Honduras. We are now better positioned to support this emerging pharmaceutical region, with particular attention to the medical device market. Customers in Latin America are also realizing tremendous benefits from our pharmaceutical laboratories and Solutions Centers in Mexico City, Mexico and São Paulo, Brazil. The Univar Solutions Pharmaceutical Ingredients team anticipates that Latin America will continue to be a major area of growth for us,” de Freitas adds.

Positioned to Partner as the Market Evolves

The world is constantly changing and is much different today than anyone would have expected prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. This recent global health emergency changed the way companies view their supply chain, emphasizing the importance of open collaboration and maintaining strong and dependable supplier partners.

Univar Solutions through its organizational approach and extensive global network and infrastructure has been able to continually supply materials and ingredients for vaccines, therapeutics, and prophylactics throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. The investments the company has made in their supply chain and logistics capabilities, along with their integral customer and supplier relationships, have proven to make a real difference in the delivery of drugs that help people live longer, healthier lives. As a result, Univar Solutions is well positioned to support the pharmaceutical marketplace in both “normal” and challenging times, including the very dynamic and evolving market of 2023.

“We are well positioned and ready to help customers shift manufacturing away from COVID-19–specific therapies and back to more traditional medicines. Now that the environment allows for more focus on demand planning and lead times, we are stocking an inventory of excipients, raw materials, APIs, and biopharma ingredients in our owned facilities around the world. We deliver them to customers, when they need them, using Univar Solutions-owned trucks, enabling us to meet the unique demands of each customer. At the end of the day, we are very proud of the role we play in helping customers reliably manufacture and supply their medicines to patients in need.”

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