Growing fast

Pharmacy In Practice

Growing fast

Founded in Petersfield, Hampshire, in 2009 by the now chairman Graham Fraser-Pye, Aspire Pharma has become one of the fastest growing pharmaceutical and healthcare companies in the UK. It regularly makes an appearance in the upper reaches of the Alantra Pharma Fast 50 – an annual list of the 50 fastest growing privately owned pharmaceutical companies in the UK.

Aspire’s 68-strong workforce is 70 per cent female, 30 per cent male – an uncharacteristic split in the pharma industry – with ownership divided between global private equity firm H.I.G. Capital Europe, Mr Fraser-Pye, Australian-based Juno Pharmaceuticals, and Aspire senior management.

Portfolio expansion

In the last five years, the company has gone from strength to strength, despite the challenges of Brexit and then the Covid-19 pandemic.

Averaging 15 new launches every year, Aspire’s portfolio now numbers some 100 products covering generic and branded medicines, medical devices and OTC. It is expanding into new therapeutic areas and continues to build class-leading products in the fields of urology, ophthalmology, mental health and, latterly, its newest area of focus, dermatology. 

“In early 2019, we acquired a small dermatology company with a sound base and high potential,” says Richard Condon, Aspire’s chief executive, “a potential that is being successfully realised; increasing our footprint from three to seven products within the Epimax range, aiming to become one of the most widely used brands in its sector.”

With double digit year-on-year growth, this trajectory was only halted in March 2020, when, like a significant proportion of its industry peers, the company felt the impact of Covid-19 and lockdown, the effects of which were immediate and profound. “With hospital footfall all but stopping, and with it, prescribing opportunities and face-to-face clinician contact, some parts of the portfolio saw volumes plummet in just a matter of weeks, leaving patients without treatment diverted to the already over-stretched community pharmacy sector”, says Mr Condon.

Responding to events 

Forced to regroup, Aspire drew on all the experience of its team to take swift and decisive action and pivot accordingly. “Commercial strategies and agile portfolio additions helped us meet Covid needs in hospitals. We supported home delivery and community prescribing for our key hospital brands, and redeployed salespeople remotely in key areas, while safeguarding product launches”, says
Mr Condon.

“In the two years since, we have invested in adding to our patient group directions (PGDs), as well as working to minimise the impact of Brexit on our business through advanced logistics planning, increased stock provision and the continued support of our European supply network. We have also continued to invest in our people – increasing numbers across key areas of the business, such as regulatory, quality and operations – adapting to a new way of clinician engagement to ensure we are able to support our customers through their difficult times, and staying true to our strategy and company vision: to make a difference to the lives of patients through development and supply of innovative products and medicines that offer value to our customers.”

Pandemic outcomes

Throughout what has been an unquestionably tough time for everyone across all areas of healthcare, the company has worked hard to ensure that its support for customers has remained, while at the same time adapting itself to find new ways of engagement and embracing the digital way of working. 

“We have been reminded that we are all in this together, from community pharmacy right through to our own suppliers, and all for the same reason: to provide the highest quality healthcare we can, for the ongoing benefit of the patient”, says Mr Condon. “We have definitely seen how our support and loyalty to our customers and partners has been matched by return.”

Aspire also has a firm grasp of the importance of supply continuity and stable pricing for pharmacy, and works to ensure its operations and commercial departments work with these principles in mind. “The result,” says Mr Condon, “is that we have seen our market share grow in key areas within our generic, urology and dermatology portfolios across the past 24 months.” 

Keen to capitalise on this momentum, Aspire has increased its educational support programmes to nurses and pharmacy, with training packages and disease area training for counter staff, and funding and training support underway for the new crop of independent prescribers who are set to gain their pharmacy degrees from the 2026 cohort onwards. 

“Our PGD offering also continues to support and provide a value-added service to the pharmacy sector,” says
Mr Condon. “With all of these initiatives in place, coupled with our experience over the last two years, we believe we are now a more complete organisation, one that is ready to meet the challenges that we all face as we move out of Covid and into the next chapter.”

Describing Aspire’s five-year plan as “genuinely exciting”, he adds: “As we have grown over the years, there has been a long-term focus to grow our own portfolio of intellectual property. Through partnerships with both UK and European institutions, we are starting to make this a reality. 

“With registration ongoing in the US market and European Paediatric Investigation Plans granted and underway, within the next five years we will see the launch of innovative new products that will provide not only life-saving therapeutics for childhood disease, but significant commercial opportunities.” 

New products

The company also has plans to launch products it has already identified and which are either in late stage registration or development. “These additions will take us into new therapeutic areas and will play a significant role in achieving our growth targets across the UK market, while offering us the platform to expand our reach into new markets across Europe and beyond,” says Mr Condon. “This organic growth will be accelerated through acquisitions, as we utilise new investment opportunities to bring products and companies into the portfolio with a synergistic fit to the Aspire values and areas of therapeutic focus.” 

For the time being, Mr Condon says the UK remains Aspire’s core focus. “We have always looked to differentiate ourselves and our products,” he says, “bringing new presentations and dosages to market, innovating and developing in existing product areas, while staying agile enough to react to customer needs”. 

Aspire also prides itself in having an awareness of sustainability and the environmental impact of its business, striving to manufacture as close to the UK as possible to limit the carbon impact, focusing on a reduction in single-use plastics with its branded ophthalmic ranges of preservative free multi-dose eye drops, and fully recyclable, UK-sourced and manufactured presentations within its dermatology franchise. 

“We recognise that as individuals and as a company we are fortunate in our position. As such, we have numerous corporate and social responsibility initiatives in place with local and national charities Bladder Health UK, homeless charity Two Saints, Festival for Young People and Friends of Petersfield Heath, and through separate partnerships, supporting educational and charitable work in other countries, alongside tree planting initiatives in East Africa”, says Mr Condon.

“From small beginnings with one in-licensed branded product, we now have a diverse portfolio which we believe not only meets the needs of patients and clinicians, but also those of the changing NHS, as it faces the financial challenge ahead and moves through its green agenda and the drive to Net Zero.” 

For more about Aspire Pharma or to enquire about training packages and disease area training visit here 

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Pharmacy In Practice