The healer Featured

5:33am EDT December 22, 2004
Making a difference matters to Carol Ammon. Her human instinct is to help -- she comforts and sympathizes, prescribes laughter for long faces and simply listens.

Ammon's healing nature and her commitment to easing pain prompted a business venture -- Endo Pharmaceuticals, known for products such as Percocet and Lidoderm.

"Pain management, to me, is a way to make a difference in people's lives -- or try, anyway," says the chairman and CEO of Endo.

Endo's products numb discomfort and erase aches. For example, patients with shingles -- raw, painful scabs that form as a result of a dormant chicken pox virus -- improve with Lidoderm.

"It's really amazing," she says. "You listen to stories about how they couldn't be active, they couldn't dress themselves. They use the product Lidoderm and get their life back. It manages their pain, and they are part of life again."

Since Ammon led a management buyout from DuPont Merck eight years ago, Endo Pharmaceuticals has grown from 25 employees and $108.4 million in revenue to 550 employees and revenue of nearly $600 million. Her company boasts a $2.8 billion market value -- nearly 10 times the 1997 purchase price.

And the industry is growing -- according to IMS Health data, the total U.S. market for pain management pharmaceuticals, excluding over-the-counter products, totaled $16.6 billion in 2003, representing an approximate 16 percent compounded annual growth rate since 1999.

In just seven years, Ammon has become a recognized leader in her industry. Most recently, she was named CEO of the Year by the Eastern Technology Council, which honors the Philadelphia region's most outstanding technology and life sciences companies.

"There was market opportunity, combined with my passion," she says. "It doesn't get much sweeter than that."

Prescribing for people

Ammon's first job was as an associate scientist in research and development at the original Endo Co., a DuPont subsidiary, where she was introduced to the industry's core -- molecules and delivery systems. This experience led to a 23-year career at DuPont, where Ammon gained experience in every department, establishing a well-rounded pharmaceutical curriculum - from regulatory affairs and strategic planning to finance and management.

"Having so many different experiences teaches one the importance of hiring people who are experts in various functions," she says. "It also makes you, as a leader, more likely to listen to people's opinions."

Ammon's broad-based perspective allows her to oversee and orchestrate aggressive development strategies for the organization, and her management team concentrates on fine-tuning each critical part and carrying out the mission.

"I rely on the expertise of my leadership team," she says. "Together, we mold the company."

Ethics, respect and diversity -- characteristics crucial to a company focused on delivering health care solutions and making a difference -- imprint the cultural fabric of Endo, Ammon says. So when she designed Endo's corporate template, she set a few house rules to bring her mission to life.

First, laugh every day. Say thank you -- even for little things. Earn your keep. Prove your performance.

"It's important that people see me as a person of high integrity," she says. "I want us to have an honest environment here, and I want us to walk the talk, so to speak."

Ammon lifted some of Endo's ideals -- diversity and respect, in particular -- from her DuPont roots. She expects her team to perform with these values in mind, and those who work hard are rewarded.

"We have a performance-based system, so people who achieve and go above and beyond the call of duty are compensated for doing that," she says.

Ammon marks both the baby steps and the billion-dollar milestones of her employees. Some rewards are traditional -- such as compensation hikes or jewelry for hitting $1 billion in accumulative sales. Other treats are quirky -- ice cream isn't out of the question.

"We celebrate our successes," she says.

Meanwhile, Ammon's passion for people is evident in her desire to provide pain management solutions to patients and her work to design for her staff a fulfilling environment, a different kind of place than those of large competitors.

"I like the small company feel, the focus, and that we stick to the knitting," says Bill Newbould, who joined Endo as vice president of corporate communications from Johnson & Johnson. "Carol has integrity beyond reproach that filters down through the organization."

Newbould speaks about his boss easily. As he does, she jokes in the background that the reason Newbould joined the business was, "Of course, me!"

"She has a sense of humor, too," he says.

The business temperament at Endo Pharmaceuticals is quick-witted and tenacious, and Ammon seeks out progressive thinkers, entrepreneurial spirits and go-getters who mesh with the company's personality.

"If you hire people who want to move at a rapid pace, be a part of innovation, be confident in what they are doing and make important decisions quickly, then you continue to make things happen fast," she says.

Narrow focus, wide reach

Getting respect in the industry wasn't always easy for Endo Pharmaceuticals, even though its team was primed for the fast track.

"In the beginning, it was tough to be taken seriously and get to the table for development opportunities," Ammon says.

But Endo entered the marketplace at a time when the pain management industry was at the brink of growth.

"When we started, the market for pain was just starting to shift," she says. "There was more opportunity, and it was a time when we could help to be the architects of change."

Of course, this first requires a foot in the door. But part of the buy-out package deal with DuPont included Percocet, a prize product that earned Endo a place in the pain management sector.

"We knew as we progressed, our most important success was to bring line extensions to Percocet," she says.

Percocet got Endo to the table; delivering on promises, building sales and bringing new products to market earned the company return invitations.

"It's difficult to get a company to agree to commercialize a product when you have no track record," Ammon says. "You have to earn your stripes first."

Success with Lidoderm secured Endo's position as a leading pain management pharmaceutical company.

"A three-person company was willing to take a bet on us early on," Ammon says. "We demonstrated to that company that Lidoderm would be an important product to us and we would do all the right things to market and sell that product."

With that, industry players started to take notice.

"They looked at us as having the commercial capability in the pain space to be successful with pain products," Ammon says "Today, we have solid relationships with key thought leaders and physicians who write a lot of pain prescriptions. Knowing this [market niche] has set us apart from the competition."

Endo's business plan focuses on pain management. Much like looking through a tunnel with glass walls, the company concentrates on pain but still allows related opportunities to filter into its product portfolio.

"Now that we have demonstrated capability in pain management, we can do some innovative thinking," Ammon says. "Because there are areas complementary to pain, we felt we should leverage the capability we built in sales and marketing and also leverage our research and development experience."

For instance, Endo representatives call on oncologists who already use the company's pain products, and offer them medications to treat oral mucositis, painful mouth sores that some chemotherapy patients experience.

"Our complementary products fill out our physicians needs," Ammon says. "If a neurologist we call on is seeing a lot of patients who use Lidoderm, more than likely, that physician also is treating migraines. Offering them a migraine drug to meet their needs is complementary all around."

Further, supportive services offer Endo sales representatives an opportunity to double their exposure when visiting physicians, Ammon says.

This type of logical expansion likely will propel the growing company past its $600 million net sales projection for 2004. Educational efforts will pave the way for greater market penetration.

"As a company, we work toward helping on the educational side of the business -- setting guidelines," she says. "We also work to bring out new medications that will help patients in the long run."

Meanwhile, Endo Pharmaceutical's debt-free status -- which Ammon engineered through a secondary public stock offering in 2001 -- gives the company the financial flexibility to entertain research and development efforts and present new products to physicians.

"We have an active pipeline to bring drugs to the market," she says.

Still, Ammon will steer growth with the core business in mind -- Endo Pharmaceuticals, after all, is a feel-good company.

"Everyone in this company has an opportunity to make a difference in people's lives in some way, shape or form, in how they help us bring products to market," she says.

How to reach: Endo Pharmaceuticals, (610) 558-9800 or www.endo.com.