ABL Antibióticos Brasil Ltda, a part of the Italian pharmaceutical giant ACS Dobfar, is one of Brazil’s most important producers of antibiotics. With a total of $60 million invested in the company since its inauguration, it is now a globally recognized brand. Reuben Ford reports on how, when it comes to the right remedy, ABL has shown the world that quality and efficiency are the best medicine.
For pharmaceutical companies customer care goes beyond service with a smile and timely logistics. A recent industry survey conducted in Brazil that assessed antibiotic drug manufacturers on quality rather than revenue, placed ABL Antibióticos Brasil Ltda in the nation’s top four. With just eight years of operation in the competitive pharmaceutical industry, the seal of approval was testament to the success of the company’s strategy, which prioritizes producing the very best, from the best raw materials, rather than the cheapest alternatives. “We run no risks with our medicines and millions trust our brand. There is nothing more important to us than our clients’ health,” confirms ABL’s President Marco Bosoni.
A GLOBAL CURE
ABL was founded in 2003 when the US pharmaceutical multinational Eli Lilly decided to segment its products into the patented, and the non-patented. ABL acquired the line of hospital medicines and became one of the most modern factories in the world for the production of antibiotics.
Shortly after its inauguration, the company was incorporated into the Italian Group ACS Dobfar, one of the world’s largest manufacturers and suppliers of raw materials for the production of cephalosporin antibiotics. With 30 years of experience, ACS has as annual turnover in excess of $600 million and operates factories in Italy, Switzerland, Korea and ABL in Brazil. In 2010, ACS became the majority owner of ABL, making the company almost 100 percent Italian. “Being a global brand is important to us, and our strong links with the headquarters in Italy afford us access to the know-how, technology and raw materials that we need,” Bosoni says.
The company’s dedication to providing cures that are trusted worldwide was confirmed in 2006 when the US FDA (Food and Drug Administration) approved ABL’s antibiotics for US import. “We are extremely proud of our FDA certification; it is the industry’s most rigorous and esteemed qualification,” explains Bosoni. Manufacturing the majority of its products in Brazil, ABL exports to other Latin American countries, Europe and Asia as well as Central and North America.
INVESTING IN THE BEST
ABL’s factory is located in Cosmópolis, São Paulo. The 32,000-square-meter facility stands in a 720,000-square-meter industrial park and employs a total of 350 staff. Producing a comprehensive range of cephalosporin antibiotics for injections (liquids) and oral medicines (capsules, tablets, pills and powders), the plant boasts the most avant-garde production technology available on the market.
“Our high investment in the latest and most advanced technology is yet another measure that we take to guarantee the reliability and quality of our antibiotics,” explains Bosoni. Techniques approved by the Italian head offices are employed at the plant to ensure the best. ABL has the latest in UFLC (Ultra Fast Liquid Chromatography) technology, which is used to separate compounds, ideal for the chemical analysis procedures carried out at the plant to identify, quantify and purify the individual components of the antibiotics. “The equipment not only increases the precision and effectiveness of production, but also considerably reduces the time,” Bosoni says.
ABL also has high-tech isolating equipment for the filling of the medicine bottles in a sterile environment and technology for crystalline sterilization, allowing the company to sterilize raw materials on site in preparation for manufacture. “Our national competitors have to purchase the raw materials in their treated state, because they do not possess the same level of technology that we do,” says Bosoni. With a technological advantage, ABL has greater flexibility in production speed and supply. The efficiency is supported by sales offices in São Paulo and will be increased by an outsourced distribution center, which is scheduled to open in June 2011 in Santa Catarina state.
“Investing in our continued success is a strong focus of our business; currently we are constructing a new water purification system which will be opened in two months time. The purified water is used in the manufacture of the medicines and uses technology imported from Italy. The system will streamline production and increase efficiency as well as make us more independent,” adds Bosoni.
Top technology is not the only area of investment for ABL. Staff training and development is of great importance in an industry that is subject to constant innovation, invention and inspection. Although ABL is not the creator of the antibiotics, manufacture requires highly proficient and skilled employees, who understand and adapt to the market and its demands, including respecting the importance of the FDA seal.
ABL produces a broad range of antibiotic medicines for the treatment of infections. Cefepime, used to treat moderate-severe pneumonia and infections caused by multi-resistant microorganisms, is the main export to the US. The best selling medicines on the domestic market are Meropenem (ultra-broad spectrum injection antibiotic used to treat a wide variety of infections, including meningitis and pneumonia) and Imipenem (for the treatment of aerobic and anaerobic Gram positive as well as Gram negative bacteria).
The range of medicines produced is decided mutually with ACS in Italy. Once the decision to supply the product has been taken, the company looks for a suitable supplier. “The process of validating a supplier is lengthy and there are a number of stages that must be completed before establishing a commercial relationship and starting production,” explains Bosoni. Suppliers fall into two categories: the first provides sterilized raw material, and the second untreated products, which are processed on site.
The success of ABL’s medicine has escalated over the last years at an impressive rate and the company predicts record revenue of over $100 million in 2011. “In eight years of operation in Brazil, we have grown by five times through the launch of new products and sustained success of existing medicines,” Bosoni says. The growth is in spite of the fact that ABL’s high quality costs more for the patient. “Many of our raw materials are imported from Italy and with state-of-the-art technology and highly professional staff our production costs are high. No other company has the same standards that we do, which is why we are the only Brazilian antibiotics producer to be approved by the FDA,” he continues.
ABL’s clients fall into three categories. Overseas clients are predominantly distributers, whereas in Brazil private hospitals, the government and retailers, an important growth market also purchase from the company. “Each area is equally important to us and has its particularities, which we consider carefully,” says Bosoni.
The success that ABL currently enjoys has not been without its share of challenges. As with all Brazilian companies that export, especially to the US, the crisis of 2009 had negative repercussions. “Interest rates almost tripled as a result of the sharp fall in the value of the dollar, and as banks froze credit, many businesses trading internationally were forced into receivership,” explains Bosoni. In the case of ABL, salvation came in the form of ACS in Italy who assumed total financial control. With almost all pharmaceutical companies buying raw material in dollars, production suddenly became expensive. ABL’s organizational and technological infrastructure guided the company through the difficulties.
Three years on, ABL is fully restored and operates individually in Brazil. “Today we balance imports of raw materials with exports to avoid overspending and have created a natural protection over our business,” Bosoni confirms. The results speak for themselves, as the company goes from strength to strength. “At the end of the day it is our excellent staff, whose dedication to every aspect of our business has guaranteed our ongoing success. Operating the best technology and honoring rigorous quality standards, our employees mean ABL is well prepared and our clients perfectly satisfied,” he concludes.
There is no doubt that patients are in good hands when treated with ABL medicines. Heavy investment in personnel and infrastructure leaves the company immune to the threat of unfavorable exchange rates and economic instabilities. With growing markets and rising sales, ABL is looking forward to a healthy future.