How Putney Inc. Is Disrupting the Pet Medication Industry

How Putney Inc. Is Disrupting the Pet Medication Industry

By KATHRYN HAWKINS  Friday October 4, 2012

atlantic-photoCEO Jean Hoffman is bringing sophisticated biotechnology to Portland, Maine

If you’re a pet owner, a trip to the vet to fill prescriptions for a sick animal can be a huge expense.

Though many pet medications have expired patents, there are few low-cost generic equivalents for pet owners and vets. In the human medication market, nearly all drugs with expired patents are available as generics: In 2010, generics represented 78 percent of all prescriptions filled, according to a report from IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics.

Frustrated by the increasing costs of caring for her own aging cat, Dude, Jean Hoffman, an executive with more than 30 years of experience in the human generic pharmaceuticals market, realized that the pet meds market was ripe for disruption.

Large pharmaceutical companies “have had a long time when they could continue to raise prices on off-patent drugs without generic competition,” says Hoffman. She knew it would be difficult to break into the industry to offer an alternative, but figured it was worth a shot.

In 2006, Hoffman launched Putney Inc., a Portland, Maine-based company that develops generic equivalents for branded pet medications. The company works with drug manufacturing facilities that typically manufacture human-grade drugs, providing assurance that the drugs they produce will meet with FDA approval. “It’s a long, expensive, and scientifically difficult process to develop the drugs and get them through the FDA review process,” she says.

Despite its difficulties, the process is rewarding. “It’s a wonderful opportunity to do something good for pet owners as well as veterinarians,” Hoffman says. “As a lifelong pet owner and pet lover and a long-term career pharmaceutical industry entrepreneur, it’s a great intersection of my interests and skill set. I’m doing something that there’s a real need for.”

Hoffman has raised over $33 million in capital, and employs a team of more than 30 staff members, many of whom focus on research and development to identify pet medications that could serve as promising opportunities for generic equivalents. Since launching the company in 2006, Putney has brought five generic pet medications to market, with a pipeline of more than 20 additional products that are waiting for FDA approval.

Portland, Maine is an unlikely setting for a sophisticated biotech company, but Hoffman wanted to base her company in a culture she loved. She commutes to her downtown office each day by ferry from Peaks Island, an island community in Portland with less than 1,000 year-round residents.

When recruiting employees from other states, “moving to Maine is not a hard sell,” says Hoffman. “People are concerned about quality of life and finding a great place to raise a family. Being able to see the ocean from the office and being able to be on a ski slope in two hours are great things.”

Hoffman and her team have a strong focus on giving back to the animal community in the New England region. The company supports animal welfare organizations throughout the country with both financial assistance and generic drug donations: For instance, Putney provides a free supply of Carprofen Caplets, a generic post-op pain reliever, to animals in need at Boston’s Animal Rescue League, enabling the shelter to stretch its healthcare budget and help more animals.

Putney has been growing at a rapid clip over the last six years, but Hoffman has even bigger plans for Putney’s future. Hoffman predicts that, once the current pipeline of products receive FDA approval and are released into the marketplace within the next few years, the company will bring in $100 million in annual revenues, making it one of the largest companies in Maine.

“We plan to continue to hire aggressively here in Portland, and in the future at other locations,” says Hoffman. “We’re building a great team and a significant-sized company. As we build our pipeline, we find the opportunity to be even more exciting than when we started out. We’re working hard and building hard.”