Putney CEO Hoffman sets sights high for 'largest pipeline' in animal health

The folks at generic pet med maker Putney had plenty to be thankful for this holiday season. The 8-year-old company, which is based in Portland, ME, scored four FDA approvals in the last three months of the year. It ended 2014 with one of its biggest victories to date: the FDA approval of carprofen chewable tablets, a generic version of Zoetis' ($ZTS) top-selling Rimadyl pain medication for pets.

The newest product offers Putney the opportunity to further penetrate what is now a $70 million market for carprofen, the company estimates. Rimadyl is still popular, but the overall market grew threefold after generic carprofen caplets (which Putney also makes) hit the market, the company's analysis shows. Now 80% of carprofen caplets dispensed by veterinarians are generics.

Carprofen is just one of many examples of how ripe the market for pet medications is for generic competition, Putney CEO Jean Hoffman told FierceAnimalHealth in a recent interview. "Pet pharma is a classic niche market," Hoffman said. "It's dominated by Big Pharma animal health companies that really aren't as successful in R&D because they don't have to be--there hasn't been much generic competition. So there are a lot of products with expired patents or soon-to-be-expired patents, and very limited generic competition."

That's not to say there haven't been obstacles for Putney. When the company launched a generic version of Zoetis' skin infection treatment Simplicef (cefpodoxime proxetil) in 2013, its marketing efforts were restricted by "blocking agreements" Zoetis had that prevented large distributors from carrying generic versions of its products, Hoffman said. So Putney found a work-around. "We were prevented from accessing the entire market by Zoetis' blocking agreements, so we used a network of smaller distributors, as well as our own direct-selling efforts," Hoffman said. In the end, "we were able to ship product into every veterinary clinic in the U.S."

Putney has raised $50 million in venture capital, most of which has been invested in R&D, Hoffman said.

Hoffman declined to provide details about Putney's pipeline, except to say that it includes generic versions of several top-selling drugs, as well as a few medicines that have proven to be "tricky" to develop in generic form. "We set out up front to develop a pipeline of 20 veterinary generic drugs," Hoffman said. "We believe that we have the largest pipeline in advanced stages of development and under review at the FDA of any company in animal health. That includes brands and generics."

Hoffman predicts Putney will turn a profit this year, and she said the company does not need to raise additional funding. "We're very excited about the pet medication industry. People love their pets, and they're spending a lot of money on them. They're also economically sensitive. So we believe there's a great future for both new drugs and generics."

- here's the press release on the carprofen approval