How to build a trusted pharma brand

STADA is celebrating its 125th birthday. But what does it take to create a globally respected brand?


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To go back to the foundation of STADA is to scroll through the modern history of medicine. The year 1895 predates the discovery of aspirin or insulin. In Bavaria, Wilhelm Röntgen would take another decade to detect x-rays. In Vienna, Karl Landsteiner identified the main blood groups only at the turn of the century.

“We have come a long way,” says Peter Goldschmidt, chief executive of STADA. “While we remain true to the values of the forward-thinking chemists who founded STADA in Dresden back then, we are now truly global as one STADA.”

A century-and-a-quarter later and STADA, known in the UK mainly as Thornton & Ross, is active worldwide, trading in more than 120 countries, with around 12,400 employees and over €2.6 billion in annual sales. It’s a moment to reflect. How, exactly, did STADA grow from its roots in German pharmacy to become a global leader in generics and consumer health?

“Our guiding star is our purpose: caring for people’s health as a trusted partner,” explains Goldschmidt. “This means working closely with hospitals, pharmacies, supply-chain partners and patients to provide high-quality products.”

Regardless of whether it is supplying high-quality prescription or consumer health products, STADA focuses on maximising the value offered to healthcare professionals and patients as a trusted partner. For example, a novel ready-to-use formulation of a widely-used cancer drug gave physicians a safer and time-saving means of treating multiple myeloma, saving the NHS £6 million in the process.

Gold-standard treatments for life-threatening diseases, such as cancer, osteoporosis and Parkinson’s, are key elements of STADA’s portfolio, especially as the company increasingly pushes into biosimilars, or equivalent versions of original biological drugs. But the group, especially Thornton & Ross in the UK, is also widely recognised for its popular consumer healthcare products such as Covonia cough remedies, Hedrin head-lice treatments and Oilatum skin creams that enable people to treat their own ailments.

Thornton & Ross head Roger Scarlett-Smith points out that offering patients and consumers innovative solutions, such as with its well-loved Zoflora disinfectants, is central to the company’s vision. “We do not try to do everything ourselves,” he acknowledges. “Partnerships are essential to our business model.”

Working as a partner to healthcare systems is also essential to STADA’s vision. For instance, in the UK, Thornton & Ross is the NHS’s leading supplier of emollients, having donated more than 100,000 samples to NHS staff during the current pandemic.

To deliver on this commitment to partnership in the broader healthcare context, STADA compiles an annual Health Report which, in its 2020 edition, is based on surveying more than 24,000 people across 12 European countries. The report provides insights into health-related topics including vaccines, antibiotics, sex and death.

For example, the 2020 survey revealed satisfaction with the national healthcare system was highest in Switzerland, Austria and Belgium (90 per cent). On the current hot topic of compulsory vaccination, a key issue in the COVID era, in Spain and Finland around nine in ten favour compulsory vaccination, yet in Switzerland, Austria and Russia around 30 per cent oppose it. Telemedicine is growing in acceptance, with seven in ten in Europe now open to examination via webcam.

There are some intriguing national idiosyncrasies. A third of people in the UK have no idea which diseases are affected by genes and 40 per cent of Belgians categorically never talk about sex. The results are vital in shaping public policy on healthcare.

“Being a trusted partner is at the heart of what STADA does,” Goldschmidt concludes. “Both organically and through targeted alliances and acquisitions, we continue to expand our high-quality, affordable offering for healthcare professionals and patients so we can deliver on our purpose of caring for people’s health as a trusted partner.”

To find out more please visit www.stada.com and www.thorntonross.com