Steve Griffin, Deseret News
Martin VanTrieste, president and CEO of Civica Rx, listens to Dan Liljenquist, chairman of CivicaRx, as he speaks during a ribbon-cutting ceremony to officially open the company’s Utah headquarters in Lehi on Thursday, April 18, 2019. Civica Rx is a revolutionary national nonprofit drug company that will help patients across the nation by making generic medications accessible and affordable.

When Civica Rx cut the ribbon on its headquarters in Lehi on April 18, the opening was a milestone in the effort to reduce chronic drug shortages in America’s health care institutions, and it underscored the pivotal role Utah is playing in that effort.

Civica Rx is a not—for—profit generic drug company established last year by leading health systems and philanthropies in the United States to ensure essential generic medicines are consistently accessible and affordable for patients in America’s hospitals. Health systems representing about 900 hospitals have joined the venture so far – with many more expressing interest. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is also working with Civica Rx to enhance the care it offers to our veterans.

Participating health systems and their patients are experiencing first—hand the impact of generic drug shortages that are all too common. Civica Rx will address the problem by producing lifesaving medicines less expensively and more predictably, because participating health systems know their needs and can commit in advance to bulk purchases at reduced rates.

Research into the costs of manufacturing and distributing generic drugs suggests that in many instances, prices for generic drugs used in hospitals can be reduced substantially from their current costs. This can save patients and health care systems hundreds of millions of dollars each year.

Here’s one example. In 2015, Turing Pharmaceuticals bought the rights to Daraprim, which is used to treat a rare infection called toxoplasmosis, and which is used by only 6,000 patients in the U.S. Turing raised the price of Daraprim by more than 5,000 percent for one tablet, from $13.50 to $750 — which increased the price of a normal course of treatment from $1,350 to $75,000.

Civica Rx’s analysis reveals that a not—for—profit manufacturer can produce and sell the drug for much less.

Given that kind of impact, the ribbon—cutting ceremony at Civica Rx’s new headquarters in Lehi has national implications, and its location reflects the essential role Utah is playing in this effort. Civica Rx was first envisioned and developed by Dan Liljenquist, Intermountain Healthcare’s senior vice president and chief strategy officer. Intermountain served as the incubator and provided infrastructure support until Civica Rx could be launched with start—up contributions from health systems across the country.

Lehi was chosen as its home for two reasons: First, it’s centrally located amid Utah’s major universities, which gives Civica Rx access to the extraordinary expertise of those academic centers. Second, Lehi, known locally as “Silicon Slopes,” is a hub for Utah’s start—up and tech community, which enables Civica Rx to draw on the expertise and talent there.

The Lehi headquarters house business operations, research and development, data analytics, and is the home office for seven of the organization’s 14 current employees. The remaining staff telecommute from other locations. The Lehi office will house up to 40 people and is expected to be at capacity within two years. As the organization expands, the office will grow to four or five times that size within three to five years.

The health systems that are participating in Civica Rx are in 46 states. In Utah, they include Intermountain Healthcare, MountainStar Healthcare, Steward Health Care, and University of Utah Health.

The beauty of Civica Rx is that it’s a public, not—for—profit asset — not owned by anyone — that will invest its revenue in growing the supply of much—needed, affordable, generic medicines.

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Civica Rx’s partners determine the drugs the organization manufactures, based largely on the most urgent need. Civica Rx expects to bring 14 hospital—administered drugs to market in 2019. It’s working toward becoming an FDA—approved manufacturer that will either directly manufacture generic drugs or sub—contract manufacturing to trusted supply partners.

Utah residents will benefit from the medicines that will be produced by Civica Rx. The goal is to eliminate drug shortages everywhere, so everyone who needs essential generic medicines has access to them and can afford them.

Civica Rx was born in Utah, incubated at Intermountain Healthcare, and is now at home in Lehi. With access to Utah’s finest universities, health systems, and other talent, there’s no limit to what it can accomplish.