The Silicon Review
“Our mission is to in-license, acquire or develop over-the-counter and consumer healthcare products designed for in-home treatment of medical conditions and ailments to help customers take care of themselves and their families in order to lead healthy lives”: Bassam Damaj
OTC medicines and dietary supplements are essential for maintaining the health of Americans. The FDA’s Web page on the Regulation of Non-Prescription Products states: “Over-the-counter (OTC) drugs play an increasingly vital role in America’s health care system. OTC drug products are those drugs that are available to consumers without a prescription.”
There are more than 80 therapeutic categories of OTC drugs, ranging from acne drug products to weight control drug products. OTC medicines and supplements are an accepted and often first-line therapy and recommendations for many of the most common conditions and ailments affecting the U.S. population.
According to the National Marketing Institute’s website, nearly 50% of Americans rely on supplements in their daily lives mainly due to health care professional recommendations and self-care decisions. The extensive use of dietary supplements require clinical evidence on the commercial products and not just on specific ingredients in a supplement and therefore demonstrated clinical benefits and continuous post marketing adverse events monitoring are important features and requirements of OTC medicines and supplements.
Innovus Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (“Innovus Pharma” or the “Company”), a pharmaceutical company, engages in the commercialization, licensing and development of non-prescription medicine and consumer care products to improve men’s and women’s health and vitality and respiratory diseases.
The Company markets approximately 31 products in the United States and in a range of countries around the world. Its marketed products include Zestra®, EjectDelay®, Sensum+®, Zestra Glide®, Vesele®, PeVarx® and Androferti®.
Innovus Pharma also offers Beyond Human® testosterone booster, ketones, krill oil, omega 3 fish oil, Vision Formula™, blood sugar, colon cleanse, green coffee extract, and growth agent; RecalMax® and RecalMax® nitric oxide strips for brain health; UriVarx®, a supplement for overactive bladder and urinary incontinence; ProstaGorx®, a supplement for prostate support; and FlutiCare®, a nasal spray for seasonal allergies.
In addition, its products include Apeaz® for pain relief; AllerVarx® for allergy relief; ArthriVarx™ for joint pain; Xyralid™, a hemorrhoid cream; Can-C™ eye drop and eye care capsule; MZS™, a melatonin formula to enhance sleep patterns; Diabasens™, a diabetic foot cream; UriVarx for urinary tract infection; and Xyralid suppositories for haemorrhoidal symptoms. The company’s pipeline products comprise GlucoGorx supplement, glucometer, lancing device, and GlucoGorx strip for blood sugar levels and Musclin™ for muscle growth and endurance.
Innovus Pharma markets and sells its products directly to consumers through direct mail, print, online channels, retailers, and wholesalers and through commercial partners to primary care physicians, urologists, gynaecologists, and therapists, as well as to other healthcare providers.
The Company was incorporated in 2010 and is headquartered in San Diego, California.
Bassam Damaj, Innovus Pharmaceuticals, Inc. President/CEO, spoke exclusively to The Silicon Review. Below is an excerpt.
Why was the Company set up? And how did you expand your Company and its offerings over the years?
Innovus Pharma was set up to commercialize OTC, clinical supplements and consumer care products with a unique business model combining our known and loyal consumer care and supplement brands with the strength and clinical claims of our branded OTC drugs, supplements and devices. The Company has its own sales and marketing platform called Beyond Human™ targeting between 20-30 million consumers on a monthly basis. With 31 commercial products in multiple countries and a unique direct to consumer sales and marketing platform, the Company has been doubling its revenue for the past three years.
We have proven ourselves to be a leader in this field as we were able to bring a one-off single product business model into a mainstream portfolio of products and a formidable sales and marketing platform as a publicly traded pharmaceutical company with significant revenues and margins.
How successful was your first project roll on? Share the experience.
Our first project roll on was a product called Vesele for $40,000. We acquired the product in 2015 with sales of 200 units a year. We were able to integrate it into our Beyond Human™ Sales & Marketing platform and increase sales to close to $3.5M in one year.
Consumers come first and being able to keep the consumers while offering 100 percent money back guarantee is a challenge that we perfected over the years. Customer service and high-quality effective products are the keys to such success. A key success indicator in the direct to consumer is the percent of return of products which is a direct indication of the beneficial effect of the product to the consumer and his health and his willingness to keep using it and not return it. We pride ourselves with having a low product return rate per category, especially in categories such as testosterone and men’s health.
How do you maintain your customers’ trust and loyalty?
Customer loyalty is critical to the success of our business and we take it very seriously. We have a rigorous process when approving all marketing materials that will be sent to customers which include reviews from our FDA regulations expert, legal experts, and other top-level executives to ensure that no unsubstantiated claims are included. For customers who have purchased our products, we believe that communication is critical to ensuring that they have the knowledge as to how the product works, appropriate dosage and expected timeframe to see the effects. We have established an in-house customer service team ready to respond to all questions and have engaged an external customer service operation during times of excess call volume to ensure that we are responding as efficiently as possible. Our goal is 100 percent satisfaction as we understand that repeat customers are the lifeblood of our company.
How often do you innovate? Is it only when there is a need in the market?
Innovation is important to any company’s success but being smart about which technology to use is the magical key to an actual success. We continuously push our employees to attend conventions and conferences to keep up with new technologies and innovations that will ensure our continuous growth and success while creating platform allowing multiple efficiencies.
Fostering a culture of feedback is crucial to the success of every organization. How is this true with your Company?
Being a rapidly growing small business we have recognized that communication within the organization is critical to our continued success. As such we have implemented weekly Company update meetings which are considered standing meetings and have a max time of 20 minutes. This allows management to provide regular updates to all employees on marketing, product development, financial, and other items as determined necessary. Additionally, these ‘safe environment’ meetings encourage employees to ask questions, bring up issues and suggest solutions. We value employee feedback in order to continue to improve our processes.
How does your Company contribute to the competitive global IT platform at large?
We acknowledge that there is substantial competition around the world selling a variety of products in our industry directly to customers through numerous IT platforms. Our goal has been to establish customer loyalty initially within North America and Canada differentiating ourselves from the competition by avoiding unsubstantiated claims and working with the FDA and health authorities on a worldwide basis to perform appropriate trials whenever we would like to include certain claims for our products. We believe that establishing customer loyalty locally will significantly impact our success on the global stage.
Do you have any new products ready to be launched?
The Company has 31 products on the market and is preparing to launch five to six new products in the remaining of 2018.
As a question on sustainability, where do you see your company a couple of years from now?
We believe that we should be able to establish 15-20 core products (defined as generating over $1 million annually) along with a globally recognized name. We expect to continue to add to our global distribution platform and enhance our e-commerce sales funnel all while continuing to operate our direct-to-consumer model through direct mail, print, tear sheets and postcards. We have been doubling our growth rate year over year and we believe with the clinical strength of our product, we will be a reference company for clinical evidence-based OTC products helping millions of people deal with their daily ailments and improve their life.
Bassam Damaj: A Dynamic Leader
Dr. Bassam Damaj is an award-winning scientist and experienced drug developer. He created a breakthrough test for anthrax and helped bring drugs to market at such major companies as Pfizer, Genentech, Pharmacopeia, Tanabe Seiyaku (now Mitsubishi-Tanabe) and Apricus Biosciences.
But the Lebanese-born Dr. Damaj is much more than just a technical expert. He’s also proven to be an adept biotech and pharma chief executive, with the talent and connections needed to spot the potential for products and growth where others can’t. In a recent stint as CEO of Apricus Biosciences, for instance, Damaj pulled the company from the brink of bankruptcy and transformed it into a thriving full-fledged pharmaceutical company with a full pipeline of products and a number of important deals with major drug makers such as Takeda, Abbott and Novartis-Sandoz. “We were able to turn the company around,” says Dr. Damaj.
Now Dr. Damaj is heading up a San Diego-based company named Innovus Pharma, which specializes in finding and developing useful OTC drugs, clinical supplements and consumer care products, many of them already approved, and creating innovative ways to use the drugs more effectively. “We’re passionate about improving patient health through better clinically tested products,” Damaj explains.
He has served on Board of Directors and as President and CEO of Innovus Pharma since January 2013.
Dr. Damaj holds a PhD degree in Immunology/Microbiology from Laval University and completed a postdoctoral fellowship in molecular oncology at McGill University.