AS one of the region's most established and respected home-grown pharmaceutical companies, you’d be forgiven for thinking The Specials Laboratory had been around for decades.
As the Northumberland-based company approaches its teens, we caught up with its dynamic managing director Sharon Griffiths for a brief business update.
Based across three MHRA-licensed sites in Prudhoe, The Specials Laboratory’s core business is manufacturing and supplying unlicensed medicines (commonly known as ‘Specials’) to community and hospital pharmacists and doctors throughout the UK and Ireland.
Specials are required for patients that have a medical need which cannot be met by a standard licensed product. The majority of products manufactured are therefore bespoke-made to meet the medical needs of an individual patient.
Remarkably, each special is made and delivered by its expert team within just 24 hours of an order being placed – the industry benchmark.
As the retail pharmacy sector has evolved and the specials market has become more competitive, the company has not rested on its laurels, which has seen it introduce more ways of adding-value to pharmacists.
Sharon explains: “From listening to our customers, we introduced an online ordering system that has made the process of ordering specials as hassle-free as possible, which is already proving to be a big hit.
“More recently, we launched a free technical helpline aimed at assisting pharmacies with queries relating to new formulations, sourcing, product information and expiry dates.”
Having enjoyed steady growth for a number of years under Sharon’s leadership, the award-winning company also has needed to adapt to a changing market environment over the last few years beyond the core specials sector.
“Government cuts have been no great secret so naturally decreased NHS budgets have had an impact on the whole pharmaceutical market in the UK, including the specials sector.
“In addition, the specials market has seen market intervention in the form of a drug tariff which has been put in place to create a more transparent system for reimbursement and provide value for money for the NHS.
“So for us, it’s been about doing what we do best so that we maintain both a loyal customer base and stability during these uncertain times as well as adapting and diversifying the business for the longer
“Furthermore, the changing face of the NHS has also provided some opportunities for expansion into new service areas.
“We have adapted by investing in two NHS-focused services to help increase efficiency, reduce cost and improve patient care in hospitals.
“Our over labelling service involves the supply of medicines pre-labelled with a hospital’s own design, helping them cut down waiting time for patients in pressurised situations such as out-of-hours dispensing.
“We also manufacture investigational medicinal products for use in NHS-based clinical trials that allows hospitals to outsource manufacturing to help speed up clinical studies.”
A long-term member of NEPIC and ambassador of the North East’s pharmaceutical sector, The Specials Laboratory continues its manufacturing here in the region.
“Given our business has gone from a handful of staff to around 125 in the 12 years we have been in Prudhoe, we fully understand and appreciate the value of having our business in Northumberland.
“Although we supply across the UK and increasingly in Ireland, we expect to be here for many years to come.”
For more information, visit www.specialslab.co.uk, or follow at www.twitter.com/specialslab