Bath ASU tops the Alantra Pharma Fast 50 for the third year in a row

Bath ASU as part of Qualasept Pharmaxo Holdings Limited is once again the UK’s fastest-growing privately-owned pharmaceuticals business with 77% annualised sales growth over the last two financial years, up from the 69% with which it topped last year’s Fast 50.

Under Chief Executive Chris Watt’s leadership, the company continues to operate with two distinct businesses. Its Bath ASU unit is the UK’s largest provider of aseptic compounding, having extended the number of hospitals it works with to more than 270. Pharmaxo, meanwhile, operates in the homecare market. One important driver of the company’s growth has been the opportunity to leverage opportunities for the two businesses to work together. Pharmaxo has become one of Bath ASU’s most important customers, for example, and the two businesses are focused on innovation.

A good example is Bath ASU’s development of a treatment for a small group of patients suffering from rare autoinflammatory conditions. The treatment currently has to be administered in hospitals, but Bath ASU is working on developing its shelf life so it can be given to patients in their homes – where they have access to specialist care from the homecare team at Pharmaxo. “It’s an innovation that will transform these patients’ lives by getting them treatment at home,” says Watt. “It’s also an opportunity to support the NHS – its annual budget for this treatment is around £15m, and we think we can reduce its costs by maybe £1-2m a year by enabling patients to leave hospital.” The anecdote underlines the extent to which QPHL operates in partnership with the NHS, which is currently considering the implications of a national review of aseptic compounding practices conducted last year amid concerns about lack of capacity. “This is an area where practice has been transformed,” says Watt. “The demands on aseptic dispensing are constantly increasing, with clinical teams relying on increasingly complex compounds for treatments given every single day.”

That need is underpinning QPHL’s growth, as well as a shift in its product mix that has been an important driver of its accelerating revenues. “The higher-value biologics have become a larger part of our business,” says Watt. “These treatments are much more challenging both in terms of R&D and operations, given their sensitivity to temperature and agitation.” This increases the value QPHL is able to add to the NHS by providing biologics in the most efficient manner possible, procuring and compounding centrally rather than at each hospital separately. Looking ahead, Watt stresses the need to help the NHS respond to its aseptic medicines review, mitigating capacity constraints caused by increasing demand. That should be a positive for the business, though there are headwinds too – notably the ongoing uncertainties of Brexit, which have the potential to cause substantial supply chain disruption for the company. Still, Watt is confident that growth prospects remain encouraging.

“We’d love to come top of next year’s Pharma Fast 50 ranking again,” he says of the company’s prospects of ranking number one four years in a row. “If we can keep developing the business through innovation, an expanded product portfolio and a proposition that works for our hospitals and clinics, the sales growth will follow.”