Very few jobs can give you the satisfaction of potentially saving lives. The people at Medical Developments International (MDI), one of Australia’s leading specialised healthcare companies, are among the few who have jobs that do. “A lot of our products are life-saving devices, and that gives us a certain amount of pride and satisfaction,” says John Sharman, Chief Executive Officer at MDI. “We’re delivering things that facilitate better patient outcomes; that’s what our company is all about. Everyone is very focused on the end user of our products and we feel good about the fact that we’re helping other people.”
MDI was established in 1971, and became a publicly listed company on the Australian Stock Exchange in 2003. Both MDI’s head office and manufacturing facilities are located in Victoria, Australia. With an industry leading range of products in the areas of pain management, asthma and resuscitation, and veterinary equipment, MDI continually provides healthcare professionals and patients with innovative medical solutions. “We’ve got pretty accomplished team of individuals that are very focused on capitalizing on our products, delivering appropriate solutions to our clients and customers, and the products that we’ve got have market leader positions,” says Sharman.
A superior product
“Penthrox in itself is unique. It’s an iconic brand; it’s been around for 25 years. It’s well understood and well-liked by users.And there are many more applications that we are pursuing for Penthrox in Australia and out of state.” Penthrox (methoxyflurane), which MDI manufactures and markets, is an inhaler for pain relief. It’s MDI’s leadingproduct, one that Sharman says has given them significant opportunities to move forward and develop new markets, both in Australia and internationally(including the UK, France and Belgium in particular).
One of the chief advantages of Penthrox – what separates it from other pain relievers – is the fact that it’s non-narcotic, and non-addictive. “It’s an amazing plus,” Sharman says. “It can be given to children. It can be used in the Middle East. It can be used all over the world where mind-altering and behavioural-changing drugs and substances aren’t liked or accepted. Penthrox can provide significant pain relief to whole communities, if not countries, of people.” Another main advantage: it’s an inhaler,it has a quick onset and is easy to use. Unlike several other drugs that require a doctor to provide full monitoring, Penthrox can be self-administered. Penthrox is appropriate for patients involved in car accidents, workplace injuries, broken fingers, lacerations, wound dressing, burn victims and more. “Anywhere there is pain,” says Sharman, “Penthrox is ideal.”
“Other advantages to Penthrox include the time it takes to recover (15 to 20 minutes after being administeredPenthrox, some patients are able to drive a car) personalisation (it is self-administered, so you can determine your own level of use – we all have different pain thresholds, one size does not fit all), and cost (there is no need to pay for a professional to administer it, like with morphine). “Almost any way you look at it,” Sharman says,“Penthrox is the superior product.”
Manufacturing a drug like Penthrox is rewarding in itself, Sharman reiterates. “The fact that we can help better patient outcomes through the managing of pain is an excellent thing, and we’re very proud of that.” He does say that Penthrox doesn’t save lives, physicians do – but there is definitely value in helping to manage people’s time in crisis situations. MDI often receives letters and testimonials from people who’ve used Penthrox, thanking them for making it. “That’s a weekly occurrence for us and that makes us feel good.”
Penthrox is not MDI’s only product. Their asthmaSpace Chamber range is also market-leading. “Around these products we’ve built a suite of other medical devices and equipment to support delivery better patient care in the respiratory field,” says Sharman.
The best kind of challenge
People will always need their medicine, but whether the medical market is recession proof or not remains to be seen, says Sharman. Some of the big pharmaceutical companies have been struggling in recent years due to cost increases and distribution challenges. MDI, however, has managed to dodge some of the challenges that have been facing other companies. The challenges they do have are the best kind. “Our challenges are to capitalize on what is a unique, iconic, well researched product, which has a number of very significant advantages to it,” Sharman says. “Even within the industry there are challenges, but for us the challenges are all capitalizing on the upsides we’ve got.”
MDI currently has about 50 employees, including those on the manufacturing and distribution side of the business. Sales come in at around 9 million dollars a year. As Sharman says, they’re still relatively small, but they’ve got large ambitions. And they’ve got everything in place to make those ambitions come true.
Penthrox and the rest of their medical equipment have truly international applications, so MDI is in the process of conducting a clinical trial in Europe. Sharman hopes and expects this will open up the European market to them. “We’ve been expecting it to be the latter half of 2012 when we start to open up those markets,” he says.“So it’s not too far away and we’re already planning for it.”
When they get there, the plan is to target accident and emergency centres in the UK and France. Their product, Sharman says, is a mature product, and already approved by the medical fraternity. Penthrox is already being sold to dentists, surgeons, doctors, sports arenas, emergency services, and hospitals – anybody looking for better ways to deliver pain relief to their patients. “We’re talking to a lot of people already about how we can get our products into their jurisdiction, and we continue to provide the solutions that are needed.”
A move into Europe isn’t the only thing they’re planning. MDI already has the capacity to increase production in their Melbourne facility, and Sharman says that they’re currently looking at ways to achieve three or four times their current output to meet the potential demand going forward. “That part of the business is looking very good.”
“I think in fiveyears’ time, Medical Developments International won’t be recognisable,” Sharman says. “We’ll have markets in 25 countries. We’ll be four times the size we are today if not larger.” He says they have a plethora of expansion opportunities in front of them, and in order to deliver a complete suite of emergency medicine they are courting development partners. They’re also developing new respiratory devices and equipment that they believe will hold leading positions in the field. The future is looking bright for MDI.“If you want to put it in numbers, in five years we want to be a 40 to 50 million dollar sales company.”