While Kodak remains silent on many details of its plan to launch a pharmaceutical division funded largely by a federal government loan of more than $ 700 million, hospital pharmacy chiefs and industry analysts are divided on the relevance of the idea.
The agreement is not final yet, and the Federal Development Finance Corporation has said it is doing due diligence work to determine whether Kodak is suitable for making some of the active ingredients in the drugs.
If the loan is approved and production begins, Kodak and the federal government have said, it will protect the United States from global supply chain disruptions, as most of the active ingredients in pharmaceuticals are made in China and India. The loan would be the most important checked in of the agency.
To Curt Haas, chief pharmacy officer at the University of Rochester Medical Center, making pharmaceuticals is a lot like baking. The big difference between making a loaf of bread at home and making medicine in a lab is the degree of government oversight, he said.
“There is a recipe. You follow the recipe, you create the final product, and then you go through several rounds of testing to make sure that what you’re about to make is what you actually made, ”Hass explained.
Haas said its supply of pharmaceutical ingredients was already threatened, along with the rest of the country, even before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in Wuhan, China, where many factories that make the ingredients are based.
“I have people here in Strong and Highland whose job is all to deal with day-to-day drug shortages,” Haas said. “We jostle each other every day. “
While pharmacists and industry analysts agree it’s important to bring drug production to land, some still question the details of this effort.
“The first question I had about this is, why Kodak?” said Ken Kaitin, director of the Center for the Study of Drug Development at Tufts University near Boston.
He said the decision might make sense: The chemistry of photography is not much different from the chemistry of medicine.
“The connection between photography companies and pharmaceuticals and other chemicals is not that far off. There is a clear link between the two, ”he said.
On the flip side, Kaitin said, many other companies in the United States are already making pharmaceuticals. He said he had yet to see evidence that Kodak would be better than them.
Kodak, through its spokesperson Arielle Patrick, said it was “uniquely positioned” to contribute to the US pharmaceutical supply chain.
The company has an extensive infrastructure and “deep expertise in chemical manufacturing and supply chain management,” said Patrick.
Retired pharmacist Jim Della Rocco is skeptical.
“I have to be honest, I’m scratching my head,” he said.
Della Rocco retired a few months ago as Pharmacy Director at Unity Hospital in Greece. He said he wanted Kodak to be successful, but he doesn’t see how he will be able to make medical ingredients inexpensively and safely.
Della Rocco said other companies in the United States that already make pharmaceutical ingredients are almost certainly better off than Kodak with their experience, chemists, and ability to quickly ramp up production capacity.
“Why did the government choose Kodak? Della Rocco asked.
The federal agency that oversees the loan process did not respond to emailed questions about why it is suing Kodak as a pharmaceutical maker.