Irish Examiner – OTC goods put pharma firm on map

An over-the-counter flea killing product for cats and dogs is the first of a range of pharmaceutical products being launched by Waterford start-up CF Pharma.

The first of its type in Ireland, Parex went on sale in March and is selling in an estimated 2,000 Irish pharmacies.

The company’s second product, Dioclear, the first over-the-counter diarrhoea treatment for children and adults, has gone on sale in recent weeks.

CF Pharma, an ISO approved medical device company, has also set up distribution agreements for its Dioclear product in 13 European countries.

“Our strategy is to produce novel innovative OTC products for distribution via pharmacies — our focus is on developing products with a novel application or an interesting indication,” says company founder and CEO Clare Hughes, a pharmacist who previously co-founded Nutri-Science, which produces nutraceuticals for the veterinary market.

Since leaving Nutri-Science in 2010 she has focused her attention on the OTC and medical device area. In 2012, she turned CF Pharma, which she had set up in 2000 as a consulting company in a new direction. Her first port of call was the local enterprise board, which provided some financial assistance and helped her draw up a business plan.

For her first product, Ms Hughes selected a topical flea-killing solution, identifying it as something that she could get on the market quick to start earning.

“Existing products of this type require a prescription in Ireland,” she says. “We applied to the Irish Medicines Board to change the status of the product so it could be sold over the counter. The market is huge, six out of 10 people here have a cat or dog and €3.9m is spent annually on products of this type for small animals.”

She elected to sell a product for animals through pharmacies as well as licensed pet shops because the former are much more widespread. She says that, in the past, pharmacies sold many veterinary products and sees scope to use them to sell further OTC products for animals.

“We are planning to launch in the first quarter of next year in the UK, where Parex will also be one of the first OTC products of its type,” says Ms Hughes, who is forming a strategic alliance with a major UK distributor.

She sees huge global potential for the company’s second product Dioclear. The World Health Organisation says that diarrhoea is the second leading cause of deaths in children under five and was responsible for 1.5 million deaths in 2012.

“Our product is unique because it is natural and because it can be used by small children as well as adults and contains an ingredient which has been recommended by the World Health Organisation,” says Ms Hughes.

Launched in August, Dioclear will be backed up by a TV campaign which is due to start in a few weeks. Ms Hughes already has distribution agreement with 13 countries, including several in Eastern Europe. She is in discussions with distributors in India and South Africa.

Plans for the launch for the company’s third product are already at an advanced stage.

“This is an OTC electrolytes and probiotic product called Diadrate, which helps restore electrolytes and gut flora after diarrhoea. It’s novel because it’s the first two-in-one product,” she says. “Up until this people have had to buy two products.”

CF Pharma, which is based at the IDA Industrial Estate in Waterford, employs a staff of seven. Next on the agenda, after the launch of this product early next year, will be the development of an OTC treatment for cystitis.

Once the company has created a revenue stream from the first OTC products, Ms Hughes intends to move into the medical device space. Next year, she hopes to seek Enterprise Ireland’s assistance to commercialise a diagnostic product which has been developed with assistance from UCC and UCD.

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