About a year ago, the Catharina Hospital opened its new compunding pharmacy: a real medicine factory where the hospital makes medicines for its patients on a relatively large scale. A year after the opening of the new building, business is booming, says hospital pharmacist Ralph van Wezel.
“It took quite some time to start up the production processes, to ensure that all production processes run smoothly,” said Wezel. “It is progressing steadily, we are satisfied. In the new building, we can make three times as many medicines as before. And we can continue to grow; we built with further growth in mind.”
As it stands, production levels are considerable. “We make 130 different medicines,” said Van Wezel. “We make these for patients at the Catharina Hospital and other hospitals. The largest part goes to other hospitals, about 95 percent. A small part also goes to regular pharmacies.”
“On an annual basis, we produce about 600,000 individual pills, eye drops, and other types of medicines,” said Wezel. “It is difficult to say how many people we help with this – as a producer, we do not have direct contact with the patient. But suppose that every patient uses five pills or drops, you end up with about 120,000 users on an annual basis. A good number”, said Wezel. However, that number could be even higher, according to the pharmacist.
The compounding pharmacy was not only built to be able to produce larger quantities of medicines; the registering of medicines was also an important ambition. By being able to register certain medicines itself, the hospital can prevent large pharmaceutical companies from registering an existing medicine and therefore charging astronomical amounts for it.
“When some medicines are hijacked by large companies, they can become a few euros more expensive, but also hundreds of euros more expensive,” said Wezel. “What we do is calculate production costs with a small margin to keep things going here, but we don’t have a profit-harvesting brand.”
However, registering the medicines is no sinecure, commented Wezel. “The price of a medicine does increase somewhat due to a registration, because registration costs money due to the time it takes, but also because of what you have to pay for a registration.”
Wezel hopes that the first drug can be registered in the course of 2023, but if something goes wrong, it could be 2024 or even 2025. “We have to follow a very strict protocol, and supply the right information. Everything has to be done in the right way, which means that sometimes extra research is necessary or certain research must be repeated. That costs pharmaceutical companies time, which is why it takes so long for a medicine to be registered on the market.”
Finally, Wezel said that the manufacturers, unlike many other companies, are not affected by the tight labour market. “Personnel is going well, we have about fifty employees. Vacancies are filled quickly. People like to work close to the patient. At large pharmaceutical manufacturing plants, you don’t see patients but here, they are a bit closer by. And the work is also varied, which appeals to people,” said Wezel.
Translate: Ayşenur Kuran