Unprecedented spring challenged Orion

The pandemic has created plenty of extra work for us at Orion. We have responded to the peak in demand while closely communicating with doctors, customers and the authorities.

The Covid-19 pandemic transformed Finland in March. “The change was dramatic throughout society,” says Timo Lappalainen, President and CEO of Orion.

The unprecedented times have created a huge amount of extra work at Orion. It has been crucial to secure access to correct and sufficient information, so we have worked closely with the healthcare sector and public authorities.

“When scarce resources are being shared, it is vital that all processes are transparent for the sake of fairness. Communication between us and the public authorities is active and two way. This has enabled us to keep informed of the latest developments in the epidemic while the authorities are up to date on the status of our stocks. We have also shared general pharmaceutical information. Open dialogue is in everyone’s interest,” says Lappalainen.

Lappalainen says that during the spring it has been clear that the domestic pharmaceutical industry is highly valued. “When medicines are produced at our own factories in Finland, it means we can fulfil demand efficiently even during a global crisis. Similarly, in communications with the public authorities we are considered a reliable partner. I am sure this is largely because we are known to keep our promises.”

Reliable and sustainable link in health care delivery chain

Though the rapidly increasing demand paired with various restrictions have been a tough equation to solve, Orion has fared well in meeting demands. “Our sourcing strategy has functioned predictively and together with our partners we have been able to keep our supply chain rolling. We have also taken more precautions to protect the health of our staff than what is stipulated by the general requirements. Even in normal times, we have strict precautionary measures,” Lappalainen says.

Lappalainen says that Orion will keep operating under the exceptional arrangements for the time being. “This way we can ensure the supply and quality assurance of critical medical products even if the epidemic proves to be a prolonged one.”

During the pandemic, Orion has prioritised certain critical products. “These include an intensive care sedative developed here in Finland and inhalers used in treating asthma and COPD. Even under normal circumstances, these products make up a major proportion of our European sales, but now, during the epidemic, the peak in demand has been immense.”

While Orion has been responding to demand during the state of emergency, the group’s other operations have continued at a rapid pace, and the development of new medicines has been continued as far as possible. Some clinical trials have been difficult to organise, such as the ongoing ALS research, which is in its final phase.

“We have not been able to invite patients to hospitals for the necessary measurements, but we have conducted remote monitoring where possible. This may cause a delay in the completion of the study,” Lappalainen says.

Successful development

In April, Orion published its Sustainability Report, which contained some excellent news. “We have made significant headway in our environmental development. We have also been successful in our most important goals: occupational health and safety, patient safety, and the availability of medicines,” Lappalainen says, delighted with the achievements.

As a completely new initiative, Orion has established the carbon footprint of its inhaler products. “A thorough lifecycle assessment showed that the total environmental load of the inhalers was low and gave us valuable and targeted information on areas where we could still improve our environmental performance,” Lappalainen says. 

Another piece of news this spring was that darolutamide was granted marketing authorisation also in the EU. It is used for treating prostate cancer and has been developed as a collaboration between Orion and Bayer. All the necessary measures have now been made in production to bring the product to patients as planned. Lappalainen says that the launch of the product is now likely to take place virtually. “We are not able to meet with physicians in person, so we will use remote presentation technologies, which we have taken into active use otherwise.”

“So, to sum up, everyone at Orion has performed exceptionally during this spring. It has taken flexibility and creativity to find solutions to various problems and everyone has pulled together. I am both humbled and proud to be able to say this,” says Lappalainen.


Text: Johanna Paasikangas
Photo: Hanna Linnakko

June 1, 2020