Endo, as a name in pharmaceuticals, has been around a long time, too. The company was founded in 1920 in New York as a family-run
business. DuPont, whose pharma unit was primarily focused on pain management, bought Endo in 1969 and retired the name. Ammon,
with degrees in biology and business, joined DuPont in 1973. Over the next two decades, she worked with and promoted the products
that had come from Endo.
But in the late 1980s and early 1990s, DuPont started to move into the cardiovascular therapeutic category and the AIDS market.
Then in 1994, Dupont and Merck entered into a joint venture, and Endo Laboratories re-emerged as their generics division.
It was short lived. In 1997, the joint venture took a hard look at the generics division and some nonpromoted brand-name products
such as Percocet (oxycodone/acetaminophen), and decided to sell.
"They decided to retire the pain-management franchise," recalls Ammon, who by that time was president of Dupont/Merck's US
pharmaceutical business. Citing her "passion around pain management," Ammon decided to buy those products. Along with her
coworker and cofounder, Mariann MacDonald, Ammon raised the $277 million needed to buy about 35 drugs (generics and brands)
and launch an independent company.
"When I saw the opportunity to buy these assets and the fact that most of them were in the area of pain management, the light
bulb went off for me," Ammon says. "At that time, it was an underserved area. It certainly was not an area for Big Pharma
any more, because it was not as big as some of those other therapeutic categories. DuPont did the right thing in pursuing
cardiovascular and AIDS, but I saw an opportunity to follow my dream in terms of developing this area of pain management.
Essentially, I have been doing the same thing and been involved in the same products for 31 years."
Ammon and MacDonald revived the Endo name because of its brand equity. "Customers had a lot of respect for the original Endo
company," Ammon says. In 2000, the new Endo acquired Algos (a drug development company in Neptune, New Jersey) and began trading
on the NASDAQ exchange.
After spending her entire career at one company, Ammon says what gave her the courage to step out on her own was a sabbatical
she took in 1995. "DuPont sent me to the Advanced Management Program at Harvard," she recalls. "It was an opportunity to learn
a lot about myself. When I came back from the program, I felt very confident about my desire to lead an organization."
The Endo name was not all that Ammon revived. The company's flagship product Percocet—an analgesic that had entered the market
in 1976 and quickly became the standard of care in treating acute pain—was off patent and facing generic competition. The
good news was that over the years, despite new entries and, eventually, generic competition, Percocet retained its brand equity.
"Even though it has had generic competition since the mid-1980s, more than 80 percent of the prescriptions [for oxycodone/acetaminophen]
are still written as Percocet, as opposed to the generic name," Ammon says. What the company needed was to find a way to expand
brand usage. The solution was new formulations.
"When we went back and looked at how Percocet was prescribed, we saw that physicians were prescribing it in such a manner
that suggested they were looking for higher doses," Ammon says. "So we felt that if we could work with FDA to allow us to
submit an application for higher doses, we would be successful in lifecycle management and some line extensions. And that
is precisely what we did. We filed new applications for higher doses of Percocet. We got those approved, and we were successful
in getting greater brand dispensing."