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How Medical Upstart Good Pharmaceutical Found Success in Singapore

Tough times mean opportunities aplenty, say co-founder Jason Humphries.

The fallout from the 2007-8 subprime crisis meant the end for some firms – and opportunities for those willing to navigate the tumultuous waves.

In the latter category is Good Pharmaceutical, founded by industry veteran Jason Humphries, who earned his chops in pharmaceutical giants GlaxoSmithKline and Bristol-Myers Squibb before founding the consultancy in 2010. He was later joined by partner Dr John O’Shea.

Not men to rest on their laurels, they went on to expand into distribution just 3 years later. The Peak gleaned some valuable lessons from the pair.

1. What is your vision for Good Pharmaceuticals, and how was the creation of such a firm a timely one?

The global financial crisis prompted many global pharmaceutical companies to look at new business models to unlock opportunities in emerging markets whilst managing their cost bases. In response, we launched Good Pharma Consulting to provide pharmaceutical strategy services with an Asia focus for Japanese, European and US multinationals.

From some of our early projects, we realised that there was space for a new kind of distribution partner: one that provided world class sales and marketing services instead of being supply chain focused. Thus, we added a third business – Good Pharma Dermatology to launch a major consumer health brand, Suu Balm, in 2013. We partnered with the National Skin Centre in Singapore to launch skin care innovation Suu Balm, a rapid itch relieving moisturising cream, which has seen great success since its introduction to the Singapore market in 2015.

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A writer from The Peak gave Suu Balm a trial run over a fortnight, and can vouch for its potency. The menthol component contributed greatly to alleviating both the itch from eczema and heat rash. The lingering minty effect lasted for close to an hour. Remarkably non-viscous and non-oily for a heavy moisturiser.

Suu Balm is currently available in Singapore, Ireland, China, Thailand, Philippines with further expansion to Malaysia and Vietnam planned by the end of 2016, and Australia, Hong Kong, the United Arab Emirates and UK in 2017.

It seems like we were thinking along the right lines; something you can only say in retrospect and with some trial and error! For the past six years, we are happy to say that we have become the distributor for the largest global pharmaceutical company that doesn’t have its own operations in Singapore and have also worked on consulting projects for 25% of the orld’s largest pharmaceutical firms.

2. Does Good Pharmaceuticals fill a niche that otherwise seems lacking?

One element that has been a lodestone is living up to our name – to be ‘good’. We launched the company because we believe even the less affluent should have access to quality pharmaceutical solutions. In fact, our distribution business is the first to launch two affordable generic medicines for cancer therapy.

We concentrate majority of our efforts on meeting consumer needs of the 650 million people in emerging Southeast Asia markets while being equally focused on commercial and medical excellence. With our consultancy, we do not over-reach on what we can deliver for our clients, preferring to hand off in areas where we do not have real insight.

3. Suu Balm is Good Pharma Dermatology’s first product – how and why did you come to settle on this product?

From our consulting work, we were struck by the fast pace of growth of consumer healthcare products being sold at retail pharmacy across SE Asia and the value of developing trusted useful brands for emerging consumers.

Whilst the consulting and distribution business are thriving, a restless instinct pushed us to develop a brand in the consumer health space and we were lucky enough to meet IPI (Intellectual Property Intermediary) who introduced us to consultant dermatologist Dr Tey Hong Liang, from (Singapore’s) National Skin Centre (NSC).

Dr Tey was looking to commercialise his invention – a rapid itch relieving moisturising cream, now branded as Suu Balm and after hearing his story as to why and how he developed this cream, we knew we had the product we wanted to launch!

Suu Balm was born out of Dr Tey’s desire to encourage his eczema patients to moisturize more frequently. As a clinician he could see the torment for these patients of the itch associated with dry and sensitive skin. By including a rapid itch-relieving agent, menthol, in a high quality moisturiser, he was able to get his patients to moisturise more frequently than before and thus improving their skin health – simply apply whenever they get itchy.

While this solution sounds simple, it took us many years to refine and perfect it with the help of insights provided by patients. When we signed the contract with the National Skin Centre to launch this innovative treatment, we knew Suu Balm would bring about a real and tangible impact on the lives of many.

4. What sets Suu Balm apart from its contemporaries? Menthol creams aren’t a new concept – does this one bring something to the table?

Suu Balm is Singapore’s first proven rapid itch relieving moisturising cream which is dual-solution; it is the only product available that can moisturise the skin and (concurrently) offer rapid itch relief for dry, sensitive or irritated skin often caused by eczema or psoriasis.

Suu Balm also contains one of the highest concentrates of ceramides to be found in a moisturizer available in the consumer healthcare market, and is also specially formulated for the Southeast Asian climates being light, highly absorbable and non-sticky.

According to Dr Tey, many topical creams formulated to provide localised itch relief cannot be used by many people due to accompanying irritation and allergic effects. Moisturisers that are sold in the market to predominantly treat atopic eczema are also not proven to be able to provide clinically significant levels of itch relief.

The National Skin Centre had compounded and used their cream in over 1,000 patients and then conducted a clinical trial of Suu Balm to confirm efficacy and safety. This is way beyond the testing of the vast majority of sensitive skin creams.

5. Does/did Suu Balm’s affiliation with NSC in any way translate to government grants / subsidies?

While the product was developed by consultant dermatologist Dr Tey Hong Liang from the National Skin Centre, Good Pharma commercialised and expanded Suu Balm from a local innovation into a globally competitive product with support from IPI, International Enterprise Singapore (IE) and SPRING Singapore, helping us with trademarks, digital strategy and training.

The association with an institution that boasts the reputation as Singapore’s preeminent skin centre undeniably adds a degree of credibility and endorsement to the brand as does its recommendation from 40% of dermatologists in Singapore but it’s the real and tangible impact the product has had on patient with dry, itchy skin that’s contributed to its success in market.

6. Does Good Pharma distribute any other products?

Good Pharma is the distributor for a number of prescription brands for oncology, infection, and life threatening allergic reactions.

 

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