Presenter: Wayne Bucklar
Guest: Hartley Atkinson
Guest Bio: Doctor Hartley Atkinson is a qualified pharmacist and pharmacologist. He gained experience in top tier multinational pharma, Roche as Medical Director and Sales & Marketing Director before starting AFT Pharma from his garage with start-up capital of only $50k. Sales were built to $66M before finally raising $14M capital from blue chip USA [Capital Royalty] and NZ [Milford Asset Management] investors in exchange for 10% of AFT Pharma.
Hartley still retains almost 90% ownership of the AFT Pharma company. Sales this year are expected to exceed $80M driven by strong AU sales, start-up operations in Asia and out-licensing activities which exceeds 42 countries. Overseas sales are driven by R&D based activities which span Australia, NZ, Malaysia, USA, Middle East and Russia. Some recent highlights were publication of AFT research results in the worlds #1 medical journal, The New England Journal of Medicine.
Segment Overview: Know more about the innovations being done in the world of medicine as we welcome AFT Pharmaceuticals CEO Dr. Hartley Atkinson for this segment. He is here to give us a glance at his company’s history as well as the medical products they offer. Let us listen to what he has to say regarding the commonly sought questions about their products from customers and medical practitioners.
Health Professional Radio
Wayne: You’re listening to Health Professional Radio. My name is Wayne Bucklar and with me today is Hartley Atkinson, CEO of AFT Pharmaceuticals. Hartley, thank you for joining us.
Hartley: Yeah, no problem. It’s a pleasure.
W: Hartley, you are the CEO of AFT Pharmaceuticals and what I understand is that you are a supplier for the industry and you’ve got some interesting products and services. Before we get into your products, can I just check with you where do you supply? What is your geographical footprint?
H: Yeah. Look, we are primarily Australasians. Most of our business at the moment is in Australia and some are in New Zealand as well. However, we do have offices up in Singapore and Malaysia. So it’s starting to build our business there. And we also do drug development so we have a number of out-licensing agreements around the world. And presently, we have that with about 40 countries, pretty much everywhere actually.
W: Well that’s a bigger footprint alright. Hartley, you sound like you’re not just exclusively government with that set of products. You work in both the government and private sector?
H: Yeah, we do. We have a mixture. We’re about a third OTC or over-the-counter. We’re about a third on the PBS. In the New Zealand market, we supply the Pharmac. And we’re about a third in the hospital market. So we’re evenly distributed across the whole spectrum.
W: How do you find procurement with the hospital section? Is it a relatively easy process?
H: Yeah, I think it’s pretty good. To be honest, it’s interesting looking at some of the differences. You really notice that both Australia and New Zealand are very electronic in their approach. When you go to places like Malaysia, people still have to go down to a counter with 3 manual copies or something which is a little bit ‘stone age.’ But I think at least we’ve made some good progress down this part of the world in making things a little bit easier.
W: Oh, that’s interesting to hear. Now a lot of our audience, Hartley, are clinicians but we also have a share of administrators and managers. Often at the end of a clinical change, sometimes I hear from doctors and nurses that they feel like they’re a bit of astronauts. They’re sitting on top a hundred lowest priced suppliers and helping a lot. Tell me a little bit about what you would say makes your products and services valuable to clinicians? What would you want them to know?
H: I think, obviously as we know, to the purchasing departments practicing it certainly it’s an issue but quality obviously is important. It can be quite difficult with labeling because the TGA has the legislation. However, we do sometimes get feedback from clinical staff about changing a label or something like that. And certainly we do pride ourselves in not being fixed once we started something. I mean, if we get some feedback about labeling or stuff like that, we would certainly look at it as a serious thing. We do change the labels to make things easier for the staff. I originally started life as a pharmacist before I did my doctorate and starting the business. I do appreciate the businesses run by people with health qualifications, so we do differently try keep the very important part as a patient at the end of everything. And obviously, there’s doctors and nurses and pharmacists involved as well.
W: You did quite a spread in the industry by the sound of that.
H: Yeah, we certainly have. I’ve spent five years at the hospital working while I was doing my doctorate part time. That has been very important though, because I know it’s a business, but there’s certainly patients involved as well and one can never forget that.
W: Yeah and we’ve talked about your products in sort of broad terms. Tell us specifically what it is you produce.
H: Yeah, we have a very pretty broad range. We have some products which are the hospital injectables and things like that. We also try very hard on products that are difficult to get. For instance in Australia, we’ve just registered a cyclizine tablet which is something that’s been pretty widely used under a special excess scheme but to actually get it registered, and in the next couple of weeks we’ll be able to supply an actual registered product which sort of makes it much easier for the pharmacists. It will be much easier for the doctors with less paperwork which I’m sure most health professionals would rather avoid paperwork where possible. So we do work hard on getting things which may be a little bit difficult. We’ve had a lot of good feedback and ideas from the health sector. We got called once, just for example, by a specialist in South Australia who wanted to know why we had certaib tablets on the market in New Zealand but why is it that we do not have it on the Australian market and to be honest, it’s a very good point. Probably about a year later, we had them on the PBS. So it’s a good example of feedback from the market and we’re able to action it.
W: It’s good to know that even pharmaceutical companies can be influenced in changing ground when they need to. We’re talking this morning with Hartley Atkinson – the CEO of AFT Pharmaceuticals, about the range of products and services that they provide and if you need more information, you can go to aftpharm.com.au. Have we covered your range of products, Hartley?
H: Yes, we had a quick stab at it. We do clinical research as well. We do develop our own products. We’ve got some patented products. We’ve got analgesic products. We’re working on medical devices. So we do share quite a range of products, from off-patent to basically patent it.
W: Well that is a big range. Hartley, if there is some big misconception amongst your patients and clients that keeps you awake at night, what would that misconception be?
H: (chuckles) I don’t know to be honest. Probably, we’re guilty maybe of having a pretty low profile because it gets busy doing the job. People obviously know the big guys like Pfizer and Merck, and Diamond, people like those. I suppose they probably don’t know these Australasian companies like us because we’re busy bashing away, doing clinical research and working overseas as well. So yeah, it probably just affects us because we’ve probably got a low profile.
W: Well I hope we can help solve some of that and at least we can make some clinicians and those working in hospitals more aware of AFT Pharmaceuticals after this interview than they do before. I’ve been talking to Hartley Atkinson. Thank you for your time this morning. Hartley is the CEO of AFT Pharmaceuticals. My name is Wayne Bucklar and this is Health Professional Radio.