A Fenton-based pharmaceutical company has sold four of its most popular brands, including Ocean nasal spray, to a subsidiary of a Canadian drug company.
Fleming Pharmaceuticals, a privately held company, announced Wednesday that it has sold the rights to Ocean, Nephrocaps, Magonate, and ProBarimin QT products to a unit of Valeant Pharmaceuticals International Inc., a publicly traded company that is headquartered in Ontario.
The sale, which was completed in late December, is the first step in the family's decision to sell Fleming Pharmaceuticals, which celebrated its 50th anniversary last year.
The company was founded by Tom Fleming, a chemist and entrepreneur from the St. Louis area who died several years ago. Fleming's family took over a majority share of the company.
Fleming's president, Phill Dritsas said the family's decision to sell the company was "a harmonious decision, but a difficult one . . . They wanted to do the right thing for the products that their father and the Fleming team brought to market."
Dritsas said the company's success arose from brands that its founder "thought of in his living room" and developed by working closely with St. Louis area physicians.
Ocean, the first saline nasal spray of its kind in the market, still maintains a leading share of its market segment, he said.
"There's heightened competition (in the cough and cold category)," Dritsas said, "and the idea of having a company with Valeant's expertise to take the products into the future was appealing to the family."
For the time being, Fleming has retained the rights to manufacture and market ThyroShield, one of two Food and Drug Administration-approved potassium iodide medicines used in nuclear emergencies to combat radiation sickness. The medicine is designed to block the thyroid gland from absorbing radioactive iodine to avoid thyroid cancer.
The company has also retained its headquarters and contract services business that develops, tests and manufactures of specialty pharmaceutical companies. And it continues for now to make products for Valeant.
Dritsas said he did not know whether Valeant plans to move production from the Fenton facility.
Fleming Pharmaceuticals, however, has hired the Douglas Group, a St. Louis-based private investment bank, to facilitate the potential merger or sale of Fleming's remaining assets and operations.
"My job is to help the family, the shareholders, maintain and increase shareholder value," Dritsas said. "At the end of the day, the shareholders have to make a decision as what they do with the company and I support the path that they choose."