The first generic drug company in Fayetteville, Arkansas, is opening to provide cost-effective drugs to a community with limited access.
The first generic drug company in Fayetteville, Arkansas, is opening to provide cost-effective drugs to a community with limited access.1 OurPharma’s founder Peter Kohler, MD, is an endocrinologist who expressed frustration with the limited access to, and high cost of, necessary prescription medications, such as insulin, in a speech at the company’s groundbreaking ceremony.2,3
“I have been appalled in taking care of some our Marshallese patients and how much it costs for a month’s supply of insulin.” Dr. Kohler said in a statement. “It shouldn’t cost that much.” The pharmaceutical company plans to begin with sterile compounds and progress to the production of cost-effective generic insulin, a huge need in the Marshallese community of northwest Arkansas.
Springdale, Arkansas, which is near Fayetteville, has one of the highest populations of Marshallese people in the world, and although citizens of the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI) can legally reside and work in the United States, they are not eligible for public health benefits such as Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security, according to the Migration Policy Institute (MPI).
Marshallese people can receive benefits through full-time jobs in the United States, but because of generally low incomes and traditionally large families, many cannot afford health insurance. They also have some of the highest rates of disease in the world, including type 2 diabetes, because of their extremely limited access to health care in both the RMI and the United States, as well as the scarcity of fresh food on the islands because of radiation contamination. Untreated diabetes among Marshallese people in Arkansas often results in extremity and vision loss and other diabetes-associated impairments, according to the MPI.4
OurPharma will not only benefit patients, specifically the Marshallese, but also health care providers in the region, Kohler said, by creating low-cost generics and supplying local clinics and hospitals to help prevent shortages of necessary medications.
“You’ve heard the overused term ‘win-win.’ This project is going to be a quadruple win, and I really think that the first who will benefit are the patients,” Dr. Kohler added. “There are many drugs that are in extremely short supply. It has compromised the ability of hospitals and clinics already, and I predict it will get worse as
the population ages.”
Long-term goals for OurPharma involve providing cost-effective generics on the national or statewide level and bringing more than 100 jobs to the Fayetteville area to boost the economy and expand the industry. “This is a big win for Arkansas. That’s why I’m here today,” said Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson at the ground-breaking ceremony. “It reflects job creation,” he added. “It’s going to create good-paying jobs in this community, in this state, but it is also a capital investment that is going to spur more job creation and grow our economy.”
The company will take 10 months to ramp up, followed by several months of testing with the Arkansas State Board of Pharmacy and the FDA, which is expected to go smoothly, Dr. Kohler said. “Our facilities will be state-of-the-art. We ought to be able to get through all of the inspections that we anticipate coming from the FDA, the state pharmacy board, and others with absolute flying colors,” he said. “We think that we will be building something that’s built to be top-of-the-line, best quality, and, again, hopefully at very reasonable prices.”
OurPharma is planning to open in December and begin producing compounds in the spring of 2019.