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Eric Gervais
Duchesnay Pharmaceutical Group

02 February 2023

Duchesnay Pharmaceutical Group manufactures drugs in Quebec and distributes them internationally. This is something rather uncommon in Canada; how did you decide on this business direction?

Duchesnay Pharmaceutical Group is comprised of five pharmaceutical companies: two based in Canada (Duchesnay for women's health and Medunik for rare diseases) and the other three based in the U.S. (Duchesnay U.S., Medunik U.S. and Analog Pharma which is specialized in generic and orphan drugs). At the start of the pandemic, the previous owner left the company, so the executive team made a management buyout to be able to continue the development of new medication. 

We truly believe that we can make a difference in women's health and that the drugs that we are creating have an impact on society. The goal is to be able to invent, develop and produce innovative contraceptives that are available in all the countries where the access is limited - all of this at the lowest possible price. Helping women decide how they want to lead their life is one of our cornerstones and we are doing everything we can to have worldwide impact and trade innovation for the most affordable price.  

What are some of the most notable medicines that you recently managed to launch?

2022 was a bountiful year for Duchesnay Pharmaceutical Group as we managed to launch five medicines. In Canada we launched Osphena - a novel menopause SERM (Selective Estrogen Receptor Modulator, also approved in the U.S.); Slynd - a new contraceptive developed with Exeltis, one of our partners in Madrid, and Vablys, an antiseptic and anti-infective treatment for bacterial vaginosis For the U.S. market we got approval for Pheburane which is a drug for UCDs (Urea Cycle Disorders) and costs only $300,000 per patient per year. Its direct competitor is Ravicti and has an average cost of $1,2 million per patient per year. In addition to these, Nitisinone - which helps in hereditary tyrosinemia type 1 - emerged as our first generic orphan drug on the U.S. market. 

What is happening internationally in terms of women's health and how is access to contraception perceived in this specific context?

Contraception is not available equally in all countries and the system needs to change because all patients must benefit from the same treatment.


Women's health is a niche market in the pharma business but the four billion women in the world are not a niche percentage.


Unfortunately, it is still difficult to develop medication for women because of market access issues and in many countries, governments not being interested to pay for innovation. To get a return on investment, we must market our medicines internationally. While the Canadian government is funding the research, it does not guarantee that when the drug will be approved it is going to be reimbursed. All these challenges are a discouraging factor for many women's health companies and their progress in the field. 

Half of FDA approved drugs are orphan drugs, are you interested to dive even deeper into this submarket?

There still is an incredible level of development that we can still achieve in orphan drugs and there is a lot of medication that is not available in Canada. European companies often make deals with North America rather than Canada, so we needed to find a way to work around this issue. The solution was to establish Medunik USA and use it as an intermediary. Since we represent only 2% of the whole market and we do not have an orphan drugs act in place, access to these medicines has been problematic. Hopefully, we will soon be able to start our own research and development of medication in rare diseases.

Supply chains have been posing increasing difficulties in the past few years; how have you experienced the shortages from your sector?

The pandemic affected the supply chain in a major way and the war in Ukraine made things even more complicated. All these challenges showed us that there is a limit to globalization, and that we need to be able to manufacture locally and become more independent. To mitigate some of the hardship, we tried to increase our stock by purchasing available APIs in both China and Taiwan to build solid provisions that can last up to two years. In addition, our cash flow was impacted by supply chain shortages so investing in research has lagged a bit behind during the pandemic.  

What do you want to achieve with priority in the coming years?

Our goal is to make a difference for patients by continuing to fight for women's rights to have access to contraception. Helping them reach their full potential will have a tremendously positive impact on the world since they will be able to study and take a better role as leaders. There are not a lot of companies that focus solely on women's health so there is plenty of potential in this field. Finally, we are also interested in making the world a better place for the patients that are suffering from rare diseases.

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