Eduard Dörrenberg is not afraid of sensitive topics. On the contrary: the 54-year-old talks often and likes to talk about hair loss, vaginal dryness and neurodermatitis. Because his company, Dr. Wolff Group from Bielefeld, on the other hand, sells the corresponding funds. These include well-known brands such as Alpecin and Plantur or Linola and Vagisan.
"We deal with taboo subjects, and I have no scruples about talking about them," says Dörrenberg. At the moment he is mainly talking about sweat. because dr Wolff recently brought a new drug onto the market that is said to work against abnormal sweating. Depending on the statistics, two to five percent of Germans suffer from this so-called hyperhidrosis.
Those affected sweat excessively – usually without any recognizable cause – for example on their hands, feet and especially under the armpits. The severity ranges from slightly wet to heavy dripping. A cream called Axhidrox is now supposed to remedy the situation. "We are closing a treatment gap," claims Dörrenberg.
The agent contains one percent glycopyrronium bromide (GPB), it is said to act on the so-called muscarinic acetylcholine receptors, which, among other things, ensure the activation of the sweat glands. The approval comes from the Federal Institute for Drugs and Medical Devices (BfArM) on the basis of clinical studies with 171 patients. According to an article in the prestigious British Journal of Dermatology, after four weeks of daily use, the amount of sweat under the armpits was reduced and the quality of life significantly improved.
Axhidrox is now available in Germany from August. Dörrenberg is therefore unmistakably proud. However, the way there was extremely difficult, emphasizes the East Westphalian. He therefore does not know whether he would go through such a process again. "These are crazy investments, it's crazy complicated and a crazy lengthy process," says the managing partner, who is Dr. Wolff in the fourth generation.
It took 13 years from the first research to the market launch. Dörrenberg does not want to name the exact costs. However, he does reveal some clues: "It was a double-digit million amount - and not with a one in front." For a medium-sized family company, this is a huge step, say pharmaceutical experts. Especially since it is unclear whether and when the investments for Dr. Amortize Wolff.
Especially since the drug has to be prescribed by doctors, but the costs are not initially borne by health insurance companies. A 50 gram tube for a period of use of two to four months costs between 50 and 65 euros - depending on the VAT rate and the pharmacist's margin. because dr Wolff is not only rolling out Axhidrox in Germany, but also in ten other European countries, including Austria and Croatia, Denmark and Sweden. Additional markets are to be opened up in the coming years.
Dörrenberg and his research team are convinced that they have "created a game changer" for those affected, who are usually between 15 and 40 years old. Doctors, however, are still cautious. "Wait and see for now," says Jörg Faulhaber, managing director and medical director of the MVZ skin center at Kalten Markt in Schwäbisch Gmünd, for example. After all, there are only a few studies and they have examined a comparably short period of time.
"If the cream is really that great, I'll be thrilled," admits Faulhaber. "But you have to prove that to me first." He is grateful for every new medication that complements the currently common methods. Currently, hyperhidrosis patients are treated, for example, with particularly strong aluminum deodorants, by iontophoresis with direct current, which partially blocks sweat ducts, or with Botox injections.
"Hyperhidrosis is a major burden for affected patients," says the specialist in skin diseases. The subject of sweating is not particularly in focus. There are always research approaches. “However, the approaches are rarely deepened. Because the study costs are high. And most companies don’t invest this capital because the overall market is too small for them.”
that dr Wolff ultimately stayed on the ball, explains company boss Dörrenberg with the DNA of the company. He had to admit that he had thought about giving up at times. “But in the end we pulled through. Because having solutions for taboo topics is our strength. Wolff.
The Axhidrox work for the medium-sized company, which recently had a turnover of a good 357 million euros, is not yet over. "We tried to get an OTC status, but the approval process doesn't allow for that at this point in time," describes Dörrenberg. OTC is the abbreviation for the English term "over the counter" - in German "over the counter" - and means pharmacy-only medicines that can also be bought without a doctor's prescription. "We will apply for this status again in the second step," announced Dörrenberg.
because dr Wolff also hopes that there will probably be a large number of unreported cases of those affected who do not go to the doctor and have not yet been included in any statistics. The 117-year-old medium-sized company wants to reach current patients as easily as possible via telemedicine. "After all, the diagnosis is quite simple: lift your arm and you're done," says Dörrenberg. This is no different in practice on site. Meanwhile, the entrepreneur has no plans to buy a corresponding telemedicine provider. "That's not our core competence." But he could definitely imagine cooperation.
Axhidrox falls into the Pharma Division at Dr. Wolff, which also owns the Vagisan and Linola brands. In 2021, this division accounted for almost 30 percent of sales. The remaining 70 percent come from the cosmetics division, which, in addition to Alpecin and Plantur, also includes the dental care area with the Karex and Biorepair brands and the hairdressing business with the Alcina brand. Biggest source of revenue for the Dr. Wolff Group is Alpecin with sales of a good 93 million euros, followed by Plantur with 85.5 million and Linola with 57.5 million.
The East Westphalians are reluctant to make predictions for 2022. "We started with great euphoria, but have now rushed into a permanent crisis mode," explains Dörrenberg. “Hardly anyone could and wanted to imagine that the pandemic would be followed immediately by the next crisis. We know that we have to adapt to life in crisis and therefore have to remain very flexible.”
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