Since its inception in 2001, Innomar Strategies has grown from a team of three to a staff of more than 2,200 team members. The company, which is playing a critical role in COVID-19 vaccine distribution efforts, has built an integrated model to increase patient access to specialty pharmaceutical products and support manufacturers at each step of the commercialization journey.
Throughout his career, Guy Payette, president of Innomar Strategies, has been a champion for improving patient access to medication. In 2001, Payette had a vision of changing the specialty pharmaceutical marketplace. Now, 20 years later, Innomar Strategies is Canada’s leading specialty pharmaceuticals service provider and offers an integrated healthcare service network that reaches across Canada. Through its integrated model, the company delivers a wide-range of solutions that support patient access to specialty pharmaceutical products and help pharmaceutical companies maximize product success. As the company marks its 20-year anniversary, Payette spoke to us about the humble beginnings of Innomar Strategies, the strategic acquisitions that have helped it achieve its goal of a better connected healthcare system, and the key role it has played in helping Canadians all over the world get vaccinated for COVID-19.
Innovative Market Access
“Innomar was founded in 2001,” Payette explains, “around my kitchen table, with three individuals. We had a theory around the emergence of specialty medications entering the pipeline of pharmaceutical companies. When you looked at the pharmaceutical supply chain, the access, the navigation of how patients were getting reimbursement, it was very fragmented, and there was very little support to help patients gain access to these very complex medications.”
The founding belief of the company was that there had to be a better way for this system to work, and Innomar Strategies was born. The company’s name reflects this goal – Innomar standing for Innovative Market Access.
“Based on the conversations we had with manufacturers, it was clear there was a demand for more of an integrated model. In creating Innomar, we sought to address this issue and help to expand patient access to these complex and innovative therapies.”
From the start, Innomar sought to create an integrated model that combined third-party logistics, market access consulting, regulatory services, patient support services, specialty distribution, infusion services, and network pharmacies.
“This combination could help to address gaps in the Canadian healthcare system, where the system wasn’t supporting patients, or there wasn’t reimbursement for patients. Manufacturers stepped up to fill that gap. We thought we could integrate all of those services into a seamless, end-to-end solution for the patient and the provider.”
What makes Innomar so unique, and such a strong partner for pharmaceutical companies, is both its collective experience and the wide range of services it offers to support manufacturers, healthcare providers, and patients.
“It’s taking all those services and making the process as seamless for the provider and patient, while also building a patient-centric model that provides value to the pharmaceutical manufacturers at each stage of the product journey.”
Innomar Strategies has evolved greatly over the last 20 years, adding new services and solutions in ongoing efforts to meet the needs of patients, healthcare providers, and manufacturers. A core part of the company’s evolution came in 2009, when AmerisourceBergen, a global healthcare solutions leader, acquired Innomar.
“Since we first launched, we sought the reach and resources of a larger company. In addition to its robust distribution services and capabilities, AmerisourceBergen shared our vision and our commitment to creating healthier futures. Since that acquisition, we’ve continued to expand our commercialization services offerings, and our footprint.”
This period of expansion has included the development of a GMP-compliant facility in Milton, Ontario, which is essentially a model and a feature for cold chain distribution in the Canadian landscape.
“The investments that we made in our distribution capabilities, particularly around these delicate and specialty products, [have meant] that we are able to store and handle all pharmaceutical products, including complex specialty pharmaceutical products for rare and orphan diseases and cell and gene therapies.”
Between 2016 and 2019, the company made several strategic acquisitions to build out its integrated model, including the acquisition of Cameron Stewart LifeScience (CSL). CSL specializes in digitizing co-pay and other services for the pharmaceutical industry, better connecting pharmacies, patient support programs, and providers.
“We added Wyatt Health Consulting, which is a market access company, and our most recent acquisition was TPIreg, which is a full-service regulatory company that helps manufacturers submit their new drug submissions to Health Canada for approval in the Canadian landscape.”
Even more recently, the company has been focused on expanding its suite of digital solutions to support healthcare providers, patients, payers, and manufacturers.
“We’ve added capabilities that enable us to increase patient engagement, expedite speed to therapy, create efficiencies for payers, and eliminate barriers along the patient journey. We made a small but strategic acquisition of a patient app called Chronically Simple in FY19 and launched AvidityHealth later that year.”
AvidityHealth’s suite of digital solutions generate and connect data across multiple sources, bridging existing gaps between the essential human touch patients require and the efficiencies healthcare providers need.
Following the acquisitions, Payette has expanded his role. He is also president of CSL and HealthForward, the leading payer service provider for Medication Management and Preferred Pharmacy Network solutions in Canada.
In December 2020, shortly after Health Canada authorized the first COVID-19 vaccine, the Government of Canada announced that Innomar Strategies, in collaboration with FedEx Express Canada, would support COVID-19 vaccine distribution efforts across the nation.
“That was quite a historic moment for us, and it came just as we were celebrating our 20th anniversary,” Payette said. “In recent years, we had made a number of strategic investments to enhance our capabilities. Those investments enabled us to support the storage and distribution of temperature-sensitive products at such an immense scale.”
There was little time to celebrate, however. With the first shipments scheduled to arrive in Canada just prior to December 25th, the company needed to get to work. In collaboration with FedEx, teams at Innomar built rigorous yet flexible logistics strategies to enable the reliable and secure distribution of vaccines across the country. In its role, Innomar stores the new shipments of COVID-19 vaccine doses in temperature-controlled units inside its GMP-compliant distribution center in Milton, where teams perform the required quality assurance services, including physical inspection and identity confirmation. Teams then place the doses into validated cold-chain packaging solutions that protect the product integrity throughout the shipment, including long-distance deliveries to remote communities. As of late August, Innomar and FedEx have distributed more than 22 million COVID-19 vaccines to provinces and territories across Canada.
“We are able to turn shipments around within 24-48 hours, which helps expedite patient access to these vaccines,” Payette said. “In working with FedEx, we’re able to send these vaccines to all parts of Canada, and we can monitor the shipments throughout the entire delivery. FedEx uses live GPS trackers that provides us with full visibility, including the location of the shipments and the internal temperature. Those real-time metrics are critical in order to provide proof of shipment stability and to ensure the vaccines are safe and ready to be administered when they reach their final destination.”
In addition to its storage and distribution services, Innomar operates an integrated healthcare service network that includes more than 150 clinics and 11 pharmacies across Canada. Each site of care serves as a critical access point for people in communities across the country, and it has taken a great effort to ensure patients have continued to receive the care they need throughout the pandemic.
“Many patients who go to our clinics require treatment or services that can’t be delayed. These are, in a lot of cases, rare orphan diseases. They cannot miss their therapeutic window, which means that every month they require their medications, otherwise they will become very sick. They cannot afford any interruptions to their treatment.”
Innomar teams pivoted quickly, moving to a remote environment from a call center and support perspective, while also implementing the necessary safety policies to enable front-line workers to continue to provide in-person care.
“We developed very stringent protocols, including screening, to make sure that both our patients and staff were fully protected,” Payette said. “We haven’t missed a single patient appointment during the entire pandemic. We are really proud of that statistic because it shows how committed the team is to ensuring patients receive the care they need. Our frontline team members are true heroes.”
It took a concerted and equally heroic effort from the entire team to make this happen, with staff working incredibly long and hard in pharmacies, distribution centers, and in the administration department at the company’s head office.
Even as pandemic restrictions begin to lift, Innomar Strategies will continue to support efforts that allow Canadians to return to a more normal lifestyle. At the same time, the company remains focused on continuing to evolve and expand its capabilities to best support patients, healthcare providers and pharmaceutical manufacturers.
“As the pipeline of specialty pharmaceutical products grows, we will continue to make strategic investments, so we remain well-positioned to deliver the support needed to expand access to these products,” Payette said. “The reliable distribution of products like cell and gene therapies—which are even more complex and require unique storage and handling support—requires supply chain partners with extensive specialty logistics expertise and cold chain capabilities, like Innomar.”
Throughout the pandemic, Innomar has worked closely with its sister company World Courier, a global specialty logistics provider and another AmerisourceBergen company. The collaboration underscores AmerisourceBergen’s global reach and capabilities. In fact, in addition to its work in Canada, Innomar has supported vaccine distribution efforts to people in many other countries.
“We have shipped products out to over 94 countries around the world, and to different Canadian embassies, to make sure that Canadians, wherever they were in the world, had access to COVID-19 vaccines. World Courier played a very critical role as well.”
The future looks global for the company, with the belief that Innomar’s integrated model can be taken to different parts of the world. With AmerisourceBergen’s recent acquisition of Alliance Healthcare, one of the largest pharmaceutical wholesalers in Europe, the power of the company’s global reach will only be enhanced.
“With World Courier, and Alliance, and Innomar, I think we will be able to come up with new models to serve patients around the world, so that patients in different countries have access to these very complex and specialty products.”
As Innomar looks towards a bright future, full of amazing R&D and new opportunities in the pharmaceutical and biotech industries, the importance of supporting patient access through services is only going to grow.
“Innomar and AmerisourceBergen are going to continue to innovate to find new ways to improve and create efficiencies in both the supply chain and the service side, and particularly around the digitization of a lot of services that are going to make us a much more connected healthcare system and will make these products accessible more quickly to patients.”
Through innovation, knowledge, and hard work, Innomar Strategies’ integrated healthcare model has been helping patients throughout Canada access complex medication for over 20 years. Find out more about Innomar Strategies by visiting www.innomar-strategies.com.