The pharmaceutical industry is one of the pillars of the Hungarian economy and has been identified as a key growth driver for the future by the government of Prime Minister Viktor Orbán. Here, we highlight four Hungarian pharma champions and their evolving strategies.
Béres Pharmaceuticals was conceived from a single product in 1972: Béres Drops, developed by a researcher named Dr József Béres Sr. The product is a trace-element supplement that the company claims preserves the human body’s normal functioning and improves natural defence mechanisms and the immune system. The drops were originally administered to cancer patients to improve their general well-being, which subsequently created a strong demand from the public.
Due to the high demand, Dr Béres Sr. founded his pharmaceutical company in 1989 with ten employees. Over the past 30 years, the company has grown to nearly 500 employees and offers more than 80 types of products in 150 different forms of packaging, including vitamin, herbal and probiotic products. The company is now run by Béres’ son Dr. József Béres, who has been the president of Béres Pharmaceuticals since 2000. Headquartered in Budapest and with a newly built manufacturing facility in Szolnok, the company has experienced continual sales growth, with 20 per cent of its revenue coming from exports in 2018. In a speech at the inauguration of the production facility, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán stated that the pharmaceutical industry is one of the Hungarian economy’s drivers and one of its most innovative areas.
Egis Pharmaceuticals was founded in 1913 by Hungarian pharmacist Sándor Balla and the Swiss pharmaceutical company owner Albert Wander under the name Dr Wander Pharmaceuticals and Nutriments. The pair opened the company’s first research laboratory in 1933 and developed its first heterocyclic sulfonamide drug, Ronin. After several decades of research, development and expansion, the company changed its name to Egis Pharmaceuticals in order to be more internationally recognised.
Egis hit a milestone in 2013, when it launched the first biosimilar monoclonal antibody (mAb) medicine that was approved by the European Medicines Agency (EMA). Egis has gone on to become a market leader in biosimilars in Central and Eastern Europe as well as Eurasia. Its latest development, aside from bolstering its biosimilar pipeline, is manufacturing non-solid medicine products such as creams, ointments and drops at its recently expanded Körmend plant in which it has invested EUR 22 million. Egis Pharmaceuticals is currently managed by CEO István Hodász, who brings prior experience from GSK and Sanofi. The company is 100 per cent owned by French pharma giant Servier.
In 1901, pharmacist Gedeon Richter established a laboratory to produce therapies using extracts from animal organs, resulting in drugs such as fever and pain relievers. The firm expanded rapidly to develop nearly one hundred different drugs in ten subsidiaries on five continents and counted among its successes being one of the first companies to market insulin in Europe. Despite turbulence in the twentieth century, Gedeon Richter still has an active presence in 38 countries and manufactures more than two hundred medicines focusing on gynaecology, cardiovascular, and the central nervous system. Some of its top international brands are Escapelle (Postinor), an emergency contraceptive pill; Panangin for supporting cardiovascular health; Stopdiar to treat diarrhoea, Lordestin and Zilola for allergies.
Most recently, the company has entered the biosimilars market with its launch of a teriparatide biosimilar for the treatment of osteoporosis, brought to market in 2019. Gedeon Richter is not only the largest pharmaceutical manufacturer in Hungary, but has also developed into a predominant pharmaceutical company in Central and Eastern Europe and holds a strong presence in the markets of the CIS countries, the European Union, Japan, China and the United States. More than 90 per cent of the company’s annual revenue comes from exports, amounting to EUR 1320.2 million in 2017.
Meditop is a contract manufacturing organisation founded in 1991 by CEO David Greskovits and two partners, all of whom were returning from a stint abroad with Gedeon Richter in Nigeria. The company was founded with the aim of developing generic products and packaging for multinational pharmaceutical companies. In Meditop’s first years the company won manufacturing contracts with Sandoz, Novartis and Merck AG.
In 1999 the company brought its first in-house developed product (Memoril) to market. Meditop has registered 13 pharmaceutical patents since its founding and continues conducting research and development in collaboration with Hungarian research institutes such as Semmelweis University in Budapest. Today Meditop is a mid-size company generating more than EUR 20 million in annual turnover.