By most measures West Pharmaceutical Services Inc. is one of Pharma’s most effective companies. Widely acknowledged for its leadership in parenteral drug administration systems and components, the company is a market leader and a well-known material-science innovator manufacturing everything from vial stoppers to sophisticated, electronics-enabled drug delivery systems.
West says it applies proprietary materials science, formulation research and manufacturing innovation to advance the quality, therapeutic value, development speed and rapid market availability of pharmaceuticals, biologics, vaccines and consumer healthcare products. As one of the predominant packaging suppliers for much of Pharma, West’s products are present across a broad swath of injectable therapies.
Seeking Alpha says West has a strong financial history, the company having grown its topline every year for the last 10 years. According to the transcript from its fourth quarter results analyst’s call, West achieved $1.4 billion in sales — its third consecutive year of record sales and earnings.
Seeking Alpha, explaining the company’s portfolio and its high potential for investor return, says the company operates with a “wide moat” and offers numerous sustainable competitive advantages including high customer switching costs (the price tag associated with moving to a new supplier) and regulatory protection to support its continued business success. Seeking Alpha’s glowing profile notes that “West Pharmaceutical’s clients conduct their drug testing process with its components for an extended period of time and subsequently [its] products are included as part of the filings for regulatory approval of drugs.” In fact, the company’s Drug Master File 1546 is the single most referenced document within the FDA’s archive. The results, says Seeking Alpha, speak for themselves. Understood as the market leader for most of its products, the company claims 60 percent market share in the U.S. and Europe and even higher for certain products in certain global markets.
West Pharmaceutical, globally headquartered in Exton, Pennsylvania, says it supports its partners and customers from 50 locations throughout North America, South America, Europe, Mexico, Japan, Australia, most recently India and now Ireland. West says its India facility expands its metal production capacity and is hosting 20 qualified customers already, and that permitting and site prep (at the time of announcement) was well underway for West’s proprietary insulin packaging facility it is erecting in Waterford, Ireland.
West Pharmaceutical goes to market structurally via two business segments: Packaging Systems and Delivery Systems and supports affiliated operations including West Analytical Services, The Tech Group and Medimop Medical Projects Ltd.
Success for West comes from many quarters, but underscoring it all is the attention the company pays to understanding the “buyer’s journey” it walks with its customers and regulators and addressing the pain points, perhaps literally, of patients that ultimately use the devices and technologies West creates. It also comes from its operational agility and its consistent ability to respond correctly to market and competitive forces. Graham Reynolds, vice president of marketing and communications, delivery systems, for West shared his insight at a recent encounter at DCAT week as to how West is navigating Pharma’s challenging seas: “There are a couple of major trends that I think are really driving West’s strategy. “First is the general growth in biologic drugs and in particular the newer molecules that are being developed [which] have their own challenges.”
Reynolds explains some of those therapies may need to be self-administered by patients and this creates challenges of how to make them effective, safe and as painless as possible for the patient. Reynolds notes that many newer injectable drugs tend to require higher dose volumes. “So what traditionally would be injected in a one mL syringe,” explains Reynolds, “now these newer molecules — because of the complexity — suddenly you have to deliver two mL or three mL or even more to make an effective dose.” That’s driving the development of newer delivery technologies, he says, “that will not only contain that volume of drug but deliver it in an appropriate time.” Reynolds says the evolution of plastic primary containers, syringes, etc., is certainly a driver adding that West understands some of the newer biologics are more sophisticated and that some molecules can interact with glass, thus prompting drug owners to explore the alternatives.
Viscosity of these newer biologic compounds is certainly a factor as well, and if it is an injectable, says Reynolds, the substance has to be injected through some device, and it obviously takes more force. “Glass is inherently a brittle material,” says Reynolds, “so the more injecting forces that challenge the device, the more risk there is to consider.” West’s response has been to expand its CZ plastics capabilities and capacity because of the materials’ suitability to pharma applications, especially injectable biologics.
SLOWER AND BETTER FOR IT
Among the exciting technologies West is developing is SmartDose, a wearable, electronic drug pump. West refers to it as an “electronic wearable.” According to Reynolds, the device is designed to administer the medicine packaged in a CZ cartridge. “All of the customers that we are working with — and we have about four of them in clinical studies at this point — are all using a CZ cartridge.” Reynolds explains the cartridge contains 2.5 or 3.5 mL of drug and feeds an electronic injector that basically sticks to the body, but delivers the proper dose slowly over a period of time. The reason for that, Reynolds says, is “if you used a traditional syringe and tried to inject 2.5 mL, first of all, you’d need a lot of force; it would also take a long time and that would be quite painful for the user. So to administer the drug slowly over a period of time makes it less painful and much more user friendly.”