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Cambrex steps back from finished drug manufacturing

Firm sells former Halo Pharmaceuticals to Noramco 5 years after $425 million acquisition

by Rick Mullin
November 8, 2023


A pile of pills and tablets.
Credit: Shutterstock
In recent years, pharmaceutical services firms have added finished drug manufacturing to their offerings.

Cambrex says it has sold its finished-drug manufacturing business unit, formerly known as Halo Pharmaceuticals, to Noramco, a specialist in controlled substance molecules, for an undisclosed sum. The deal comes just five years after Cambrex, a major US pharmaceutical services firm, purchased Halo for $425 million.

In a press release, Cambrex CEO Thomas Loewald says the sale “was the result of a strategic decision to focus on core areas of growth and investment.” Cambrex will prioritize its active pharmaceutical ingredient (API) and analytical testing businesses going forward, he says.

The 2018 purchase of Halo was a change of direction for Cambrex, which had previously stuck to contract manufacturing of small-molecule APIs as its competition diversified into areas including biologics and spray drying services. Several, including Lonza and Thermo Fisher Scientific, established finished-drug manufacturing as a service.

Cambrex was publicly traded until it was acquired by the private equity firm Permira in 2019 for $2.4 billion. It recently bought Q1 Scientific, a provider of stability storage services, and Snapdragon Chemistry, a process development service firm specializing in flow chemistry.

Noramco’s CEO, Lee Karras, was CEO of Halo when Cambrex bought it and joined Noramco in 2020. “This acquisition allows Noramco to provide our customers with more sourcing options beyond APIs,” he says in a press release. “With these additional capabilities, Noramco/Purisys customers can develop drug product formulations for their APIs for both clinical and commercial purposes.” Purisys is Noramco’s pharmaceutical services arm.

The sale is surprising but understandable, says James Bruno, head of the consulting firm Chemical and Pharmaceutical Solutions. “Cambrex made a big investment in buying all those assets,” he says. “The plants were nice, they had a whole sales force, but I’m not sure [finished drugs] actually was a fit.”

Bruno says Noramco could use the Halo sites to manufacture controlled drugs for customers using the APIs it makes. Halo received US Food and Drug Administration registration to manufacture the controlled substances dihydromorphine and hydromorphone in 2012.



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