Long Island’s Generic, Over-the-counter Pill Business Booms

Far from pausing during the pandemic, Long Island’s pill-making industry has been going into overdrive. (Getty Images)

Long Island may not be home to big pharma brands like Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer or Sanofi, but when it comes to generic drugs, over-the-counter medications, and nutritional supplements, the region is a massive pill manufacturing center – and it’s getting bigger.

Far from pausing during the pandemic, Long Island’s pill-making industry has been going into overdrive, adding manufacturing to feed the nation’s insatiable appetite for medications and supplements. And that means hiring, investing in technology, and building in a kind of pill boom.

Generics, drugs made when original products go off patent, are at the core of the growth, typically providing cheaper options under manufacturer brand names, store brands, or for other companies.

Amneal Pharmaceuticals, a New Jersey-based company specializing in generic drugs with large Long Island operations, supplies more than 10 billion generic doses to customers annually. It also produces jobs, employing about 900 people in Brookhaven, Hauppauge and Yaphank. 

ScieGen Pharmaceuticals, a generic drug maker founded in 2009, operates 90,000 square feet of manufacturing and warehouse space at its Hauppauge headquarters. The company says it can make up to 10 billion tablets and capsule units a year.

ScieGen on its website says construction is under way on a new facility that will include an additional 150,000 square feet of manufacturing and warehouse space, “allowing us to increase production.” 

Meanwhile, Central Islip-based generic pharmaceutical company Ascent Pharmaceuticals operates 309,000 square feet of manufacturing and laboratory space on Long Island. That’s in addition to about 15,000 square feet of laboratory space in India.

Hauppauge-based Contract Pharmacal, which says it has a 17 billion pill capacity, develops about 100 new products and makes more than 600 products annually. 

And Deer Park-based Allegiant Health, spun off by A&Z Pharmaceuticals, makes private label over-the-counter pharmaceuticals and nutritional supplements, as well as products under its own Health A2Z brand. It now has a portfolio of more than 100 over-the-counter pharmaceuticals and supplements. 

Sounds like a lot? Enough to make the name of the TV show Billions seem like a rounding error? All of this adds up to a big little pill industry and a kind of hub of generic manufacturing, where other companies typically develop drugs then made on Long Island, fueling manufacturing in Suffolk County.

“In terms of what we do on Long Island, we manufacture and distribute generics,” Anthony DiMeo, an Amneal spokesperson, told the Long Island Press. “Generics is a critical industry in U.S. healthcare. It represents the vast majority of total prescriptions, 90%.”

Bridgewater, N.J.-based Amneal, DiMeo said, has been “focused on affordable, essential medicines,” since the company’s founding in 2002. Amneal acquired a Brookhaven site in 2008 and in 2017 completed a major expansion, which DiMeo said made it the largest pharmaceutical facility in New York State at approximately 600,000 square feet. He said Amneal’s generics business has been growing by 2%-3% a year, driven by new products.

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Generics, drugs made when original products go off patent, are at the core of the growth. (Getty Images)

While Amneal makes many medications under its own brands, Contract Pharmacal specializes in making and packaging pharmaceuticals and dietary supplements for other companies. It employs more than 1,300, works for 65 customers worldwide and has annual bottling capacity of 300 million and annual solid-dose capacity of 20 billion.

“Fifty years ago, John Wolf, our cofounder, had a vision to help companies bring quality pharmaceutical-grade products to consumers,” Chief Operating Officer Jeff Reingold said as the company celebrates its 50th anniversary. “People assume quality, but you have to prove quality.”

Contract Pharmacal had grown its work force from 630 in 2012 to twice that number by 2019, according to a statement by Empire State Development and the New York Power Authority. 

“Contract Pharmacal has deep roots on Long Island and thanks to support from New York State this innovative company has seen significant job growth in recent years,” then-Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul, who toured their facility, said in 2019. “Their continued expansion is part of our ongoing strategy to create good-paying jobs, invest in our workforce, and ensure a brighter economic future for Long Island and across the state.”

Contract Pharmacal President Mark Wolf at the time said $8 million in tax incentives tied to his company’s investment and creation of jobs helped the business “expand and remain competitive in this highly specialized industry.”

In addition to manufacturing, the industry’s expansion is leading to high-tech warehousing for billions of pills made in the United States, even if most manufacturing has moved offshore.

“Our automated warehouse has the proper segregation to store materials of different environmental conditions to meet their requirements,” ScieGen says on its website. 

Many of the companies were created by entrepreneurs of Indian heritage, such as Amneal, founded in 2002 by brothers Chirag and Chintu Patel, whose father, Kanu Patel, worked as a pharmaceutical regulatory inspector in India.

SciGen CEO Pailla Malla Reddy, an Indian American businessman, in 1995 founded Bactolac Pharmaceutical and in 2009 launched ScieGen Pharmaceuticals. Sudhakar Vidiyala is CEO of Ascent Pharmaceuticals.

Companies do a lot of research as well as manufacturing on Long Island. Amneal in Brookhaven operates an R&D site not far from an 84,000-square-foot warehouse in Yaphank. 

Many pharmaceutical companies have been expanding on Long Island to meet growing demand, often driven by generics that prove an Rx for growth.

“Yes, we have been hiring on Long Island,” DiMeo said. “If you look at our LinkedIn page you’ll see we’ve had a number of job fairs this year.”

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