Drug company involving SSM Health, UnityPoint Health to make generic antibiotics

May 16, 2019 GMT

A not-for-profit generic drug company involving SSM Health and UnityPoint Health will make two generic antibiotics that have been in short supply or sold at high prices at hospitals around the country, the company said Wednesday.

Civica Rx, formed last year, said it aims to make at least 14 generic drugs to help avoid drug shortages and keep prices down for members.

The Utah-based company is partnering with Xellia Pharmaceuticals of Denmark to make generic Vancomycin and Daptomycin, antibiotics used to treat difficult infections, including staph bacteria resistant to other drugs.


St. Louis-based SSM Health, which owns St. Mary’s Hospital in Madison and Dean Medical Group, was one of seven organizations that formed the company. Another was Mayo Clinic, which has operations in Wisconsin.

Iowa-based UnityPoint Health, which owns Meriter Hospital in Madison, and Aspirus, which also has operations in Wisconsin, have also become members of Civica.

SSM Health’s facilities in Wisconsin, which include St. Mary’s Hospital in Janesville and St. Clare Hospital in Baraboo, expects to buy Civica’s generic version of Vancomycin and Daptomycin by late this summer, said Mo Kharbat, who oversees SSM Health’s pharmacy services in the state.

The facilities have faced shortages of the drugs, especially Vancomycin, Kharbat said.

“We won’t have to worry anymore about having Vancomycin or switching to different presentations,” he said.

In the past 10 years, shortages and sudden price hikes of other drugs — such as other antibiotics, the pain killers morphine and fentanyl, and electrolyte solutions such as sodium bicarbonate and potassium chloride — have created a “crisis that doesn’t seem to want to go away,” Kharbat said.

By supplying generic Vancomycin and Daptomycin, Civica “will have a direct impact on patient safety and public health by providing consistent access to antibiotics,” Martin VanTrieste, CEO of Civica, said in a statement.

Civica plans to start making at least another dozen generics this year. SSM Health, UnityPoint Health, Mayo, Aspirus and other members help determine which drugs are prioritized for production.

Locally, UnityPoint Health-Meriter will continue to use its wholesaler, McKesson, to get its drugs, spokeswoman Leah Huibregtse said. “However, during times of drug shortages, we may look to work with Civica, if applicable,” Huibregtse said.

UW Health is not part of Civica and relies on its group-purchasing organization, Vizient, to help with drug shortages, spokeswoman Lisa Brunette said.

But, “as Civica succeeds, so too will the rest of the market, which is good for all,” Brunette said.