In Finland, Orion is the sole manufacturer or distributor of almost 50 medicines. In total, in their different strengths and packaging sizes these add up to over one hundred medicines and in total several hundred thousand people use them in Finland.
These medicines include products to treat widespread illnesses, such as cardiovascular medication and painkillers, and psychopharmaceuticals used to treat depression and anxiety. Orion also supplies medicines in Finland where the volume of use is low, where the number of users add up to a few dozen or a hundred patients. However, these medicines are very important for the patients who use them. Examples of these are certain anti-TB drugs.
Paula Rytilä, Orion's Medical Director, says that the common denominator for these medicines is that they are an important part of well-established Finnish treatment practice.
“Many of these medicines have been in use for a long time, even since the 1960s. They have an established user base in our country. The fact that a medicine is old does not automatically mean that the treatment is outdated,” says Rytilä.
“Finnish doctors and their patients rely on Orion for the availability of these medicines. The use and safety of medicines that have been on the market for a long time is generally well known.”
Finns trust Orion
Why, then, does Orion also manufacture small-volume drugs with low market value? There are several reasons for this, according to Peter Lindström, Marketing Director for prescription drugs.
“The original distributor of many of these products is Orion, which in the past made the medicine available to Finns. Over the years and decades, they have become familiar and important medicines for certain groups of patients. We do not want to let these patients down, or the doctors who treat them.”
According to Rytilä and Lindström, Orion bases its role as the sole pharmaceutical manufacturer or distributer on its value proposition. According to the proposition, Orion is a responsible operator and aims to be a medicine cabinet for Finns.
“We are working hard to keep this promise, and the manufacturing and distribution of low-volume and orphan drugs in Finland is also an important part of our portfolio,” Rytilä says.
Value proposition after the launch of generic substitution
Lindström says that every third pharmaceutical pack purchased at a Finnish pharmacy is an Orion product. This means we have an obligation.
“We issued our value proposition in 2003 after generic substitution was introduced in Finland,” Lindström says.
“We start by responding to price competition but strive to keep the product available even if prices fall. Doctors must be able to rely on the fact that an Orion product is available when prescribing a medicine for a patient.”
According to Lindström, the advice offered at pharmacies on pharmaceutical products now has a more important role. Obviously, from the patient’s perspective it is important to get the familiar medicine.
Patient safety is the priority
As the sole manufacturer or distributor of pharmaceuticals, Orion also takes responsibility for patient safety. Within the group of nearly 50 product mentioned, there are individual illnesses where Orion’s product is the only one suitable for the patient. Thus, Orion plays a big role in public health.
There are also medicines that are widely used. An example of this is Warfarin, an anticoagulant used by about 140,000 patients.
“Patient safety would be seriously threatened if, for some reason, we were unable to supply the medicine. Some of Orion's products are critical for patients, they simply can't run out,” say Rytilä and Lindström.
Feedback from healthcare professionals is important
Orion works closely with healthcare professionals. As a result, Orion often hears of ideas and demand for medicines that are needed in the treatment of patients.
An example of this is when several doctors and the Finnish Brain Association, among others, contacted Orion last year to request the launch of a medicine to treat cerebrovascular disorders, as the original manufacturer of the medicine had decided to stop worldwide production.
"The medicine prevents thrombosis, and for many patients who have suffered from cerebral infarction it is vital," Rytilä says.
Orion wanted to respond to this national need, as about 30,000 Finnish patients a year need the medicine.
"A lot of work went into continuing the manufacture of the medicine, but the result was a success: the patients didn't go without their medicine."
Text: Essi Kähkönen
January 30, 2020