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Boiron S.A. Business Information, Profile, and History

homeopathic company france homeopathy

20 rue de la Libération
Sainte-Foy-les-Lyon 69110
France

Company Perspectives:

For more than 70 years, Boiron has been committed to funding scientific research and educating the public and healthcare professionals on homeopathic medicines. Boiron maintains the highest standards in manufacturing, complying with U.S. Food and Drug Administration regulations, the Homeopathic Pharmacopoeia of the U.S., and the Drug Good Manufacturing Practices.

History of Boiron S.A.

Boiron S.A. is a world leader in the production and distribution of homeopathic medicines. One of the oldest homeopathic manufacturers in Europe, the company has operations in more than 60 countries in Europe, North America, South America, Africa, the Middle East, and Australia. Boiron, which produces more than 1,500 homeopathic remedies, alone or in combinations, also funds scientific research, provides training to medical professionals, and distributes healthcare information to the general public.

Beginnings

In June 1932, René Baudry hired twin brothers Jean and Henri Boiron to found a homeopathic laboratory, the Laboratoire Central Homéopathique de France in Paris. Born in Paris in 1906, the Boiron brothers had each earned a degree in science in 1928 and a diploma in pharmacy in 1929.

Baudry was himself a pharmacist, who had long specialized in producing homeopathic medicines, or remedies. In 1911, he had founded a homeopathic pharmacy called the Pharmacie Générale Homéopathique Française, which he sold in 1922 when he left Paris. Eight years later, in 1930, Baudry joined a group of homeopathic physicians in Lyon to found the Laboratoire Central Homéopathique Rhodanien. Shortly thereafter, when the Parisian physicians of the Ecole Moderne d'Homéopathique asked Baudry to found a national laboratory for the production of homeopathic medicines, he agreed, basing the company in Lyon, France, and hiring the Boiron brothers to head up a branch of the company in Paris.

Homeopathy is a branch of medicine that follows the maxim: "Like treats like." Each homeopathic remedy contains a minute dilution of a substance that, in a healthy person, will create symptoms similar to those the patient currently manifests. The remedy is the result of a series of successive de-concentrations of the substance, which may be plant-, animal-, or mineral-based, which is "potentized" homeopathically by a standardized shaking process called "dynamization." The homeopathic dilution, or "strain," may be added to a liquid base and used as a tincture or impregnated onto an inert pharmaceutical vehicle which may be granule, pill, or pellet. There are currently about 3,300 strains that serve as the starting point for homeopathic remedies.

Homeopathy was first developed in the late 1700s by Samuel Hahnemann, a German physician, who began to study the effects of various natural substances on his body. To avoid problems of toxicity, he used substances at smaller and smaller concentrations. Hahnemann became convinced that "the same things which cause the disease cure it," a principle espoused by Hippocrates. By the mid-1800s, there were several homeopathic medical colleges in Europe and the United States, and one in five doctors used homeopathy, but the move toward a more mechanistic view of the body and the growing use of pharmaceuticals pushed homeopathy into relative obscurity by the 1940s.

The Boiron brothers' Laboratoire Central Homéopathique de France was located on the premises of Baudry's original Pharmacie Générale Homéopathique Française. A year after its opening, in 1933, René Baudry joined Henri Boiron at the Paris laboratory, which became the Laboratoires Homéopathiques Modernes (LHM). Boiron and Baudry focused on developing a range of homeopathic combination formulas, which eventually became the foundation of the Boiron company's line of specialties. Specialties contain several homeopathic active ingredients traditionally used to treat an ailment.

At the same time, Jean Boiron took over development of the Laboratoire Central Homéopathique Rhodanien in Lyon, which became the Pharmacie Homéopathique Rhodanienne (PHR). His focus became and remained the production of classical homeopathic remedies, those that were developed in the 19th century by Hahnemann.

After 1941, while still maintaining a close connection to LHM, the Boiron brothers began an independent business under the trademark PHR. During the next two decades, homeopathy gained acceptance in France, and both LHM and PHR grew steadily. In 1967, PHR and LHM merged to form the Laboratoires Boiron. The company opened its first regional production and distribution facility in Toulouse in 1968.

Other distribution facilities followed throughout France starting in the 1970s, and the Laboratoire Boiron set up regional establishments in Lille, Belfort, Nantes, Avignon, and Grenoble. In 1974, it moved its head offices and production plant to Ste. Foy-lès-Lyon, near Lyon. The Laboratoires Boiron also undertook its first international development in 1979 with the establishment of a foreign branch in Milan, Italy. Additional branches followed soon afterward: in Spain in 1984, in Belgium in 1989. By the late 1980s, the company also had subsidiaries in the United States, Canada, and the Caribbean.

As the company grew, the Boiron brothers developed their commitment to promote homeopathy throughout the French and international medical communities. They founded the Centre d'Etude et de Documentation Homéopathiques and the Organisation Médicale Homéopathique Internationale. Jean Boiron also maintained his interest in producing classical homeopathy remedies and undertook extensive research to develop production processes such as triple impregnation. This is a process that guarantees impregnation of the homeopathic solution right to the heart of the inert substance. Meanwhile, Henri Boiron was elected president of the Syndicat National des Pharmaciens Homéopathes in 1953, and, in 1955, he founded the Comité International des Pharmaciens Homéopathes. One of the peak moments of his career was the inclusion of homeopathy into the Pharmacopée Française in 1965.

The next generation of the family took the reins of the Laboratoires Boiron in 1983 when Christian Boiron succeeded Jean Boiron as president. At the time, the company had 29 production facilities around the world. Boiron acquired Philadelphia-based John Borneman & Sons in 1983, further consolidating its presence in the United States.

Two years later, in 1985, the Institut Boiron opened, sealing the company's commitment to expand homeopathy throughout the international medical and scientific communities. This research institute drew on the clinical experience of homeopathic physicians with the goal of better understanding the active mechanism of homeopathic drugs. Institut Boiron began holding a symposium every other year for academics and doctors, the goal of which was to develop research in homeopathy; to reinforce medical training in homeopathy; and to foster communication about homeopathy among doctors of all backgrounds. The institute also aimed to educate the general public about homeopathy with its Club Boiron Santé.

The 1980s saw the expansion and establishment of Boiron as France's largest homeopathic laboratory and production facility and as the world's leader in producing homeopathic medicines. Boiron undertook to consolidate its presence in France where the social security system reimbursed the costs of homeopathic medicines and where 5,000 to 6,000 doctors were trained homeopathically. In 1987, the company went public, offering its stock on the Lyon Stock Exchange. The following year, it merged with the Laboratoires Homéopathiques de France, and its domestic market share reached 60 percent. Boiron's worldwide market share at the time was around 16 percent, well ahead of its French rival Dolisos and of the two leading West German homeopathic laboratories, Schwabe and Heel. Its total sales were almost $130 million in 1988, 90 percent of which occurred within France.

The company experienced continued growth at home and abroad through the first half of the 1990s as an increasingly liberalized European drug market created opportunities for niche companies in the healthcare sector. Two EEC directives in 1992 provided a legal framework for homeopathic remedies at the European Union level, which led to recognition of the status of homeopathic medicine in all member states and a procedure for registering homeopathic remedies. In 1990, Sibourg laboratories of Marseille, France, another producer of homeopathic medicines, merged with Boiron, and in the years following, competition intensified between Boiron and Dolisos. Also in the early 1990s, Boiron took advantage of the times to launch a line of food supplements called Bioptimum through pharmacies in France.

Boiron's French business slowed in 1994, but all foreign subsidiaries showed a profit for the first time that year, accounting for more than 36 percent of its profits. Sales continued to remain level in France in 1995, while international sales increased 5 percent. The situation at home notwithstanding, in 1995 Boiron built a new production facility in Messimy near Lyon. In the late 1990s, France still accounted for close to three quarters of all sales; however, when the French government capped homeopathic drug prices, the domestic market further stagnated. By 1996, when sales for the company reached $217 million, only about 73 percent of revenues occurred within France. Foreign sales grew by almost 20 percent in 1996.

Boiron also continued to develop its pharmacy market in the second half of the 1990s. Moving into the phytotherapy market, it launched a range of 16 plant-based skin, face, and hair care products, called Soins Quotidiens (Daily Care), for distribution through pharmacies only in 1996. In 1997, after two years of research and development, the company introduced classical herbal remedies in gel form. This introduction put Boiron in direct competition for the phytotherapy market in France with Arkopharma, which had entered the homeopathy market there in 1991.

During the second half of the 1990s, with the homeopathic world market worth about $21 billion, Boiron embarked on a trail of international expansion, moving into Eastern Europe and the United States and starting to penetrate the South American and Asian markets. Growth in the United States was initially slow despite 1,000 doctors and 4,000 healthcare professionals prescribing homeopathic remedies; however, by 1998, Boiron's U.S. market was increasing by about 5 to 10 percent annually to reach about $12 million in 1997. In 1999, Boiron acquired a 35 percent interest in Unda, Belgium's main homeopathic specialty company. To accommodate its international expansion, in the late 1990s Boiron instituted a new management structure, beginning in distribution and extending next to production and administration.

By 2000, Boiron had around 3,000 strains for developing homeopathic remedies. Homeopathic medicines were used in more than 75 countries, mainly in Europe. Despite the leveling off of the French market, France still remained the biggest market for homeopathic medicine in the world, with 40 percent of the population using remedies at least occasionally, and in 2003, the company opened its HERBAXT industrial site in the Paris region to specialize in the production of trace elements. Also in 2003, Boiron launched Camilia, the first homeopathic medicine in bottle packs for teething and Verrulia, a medicine in tablet form for treating warts. Camilia became the second most recommended over-the-counter product of the year at the Quotipharm trade fair. In addition, Boiron's Oscillococcinum flu remedy, became one of the most widely used homeopathic medicines in the world around that time.

The French government dealt a blow to homeopathy in January 2004, when it suddenly reduced coverage of homeopathic medicines from 65 to 35 percent. Then in September, the National Academy of Medicine launched an attack on homeopathic medicines, saying that they should not be covered by health insurance because they had not been proven in clinical trials. Both pronouncements met with opposition from the French public, and 650,000 physicians, pharmacists, and citizens signed a petition objecting to the reduction in reimbursement for prescribed homeopathic remedies.

Despite the official opposition to homeopathy, Boiron, which had been experiencing double-digit growth for the past several years, purchased Dolisos, one of its major competitors, from the French pharmaceuticals group Pierre Fabre in 2005. The merger meant that Boiron commanded 90 percent of the French homeopathy market. The company also increased its stake in Unda to 95 percent in 2005. Although homeopathic remedies still represented less than half a percent of the more than $450 billion world pharmaceutical market, Boiron was in a position to capitalize on a much larger share of that market.

Principal Subsidiaries: Unda; Boiron Srl; Boiron Inc.; Boiron Sociedad Iberica de Homeopatica; Boiron Canada Inc.; Boiron GmbH; Boiron Caraibes SARL; HERBAXT; Boiron CZ s.r.o.; Boiron SK s.r.o.; Boiron SP zoo; Boiron TN s.a.r.l.; Boiron RO s.r.l.; Boiron MA s.a.r.l.

Principal Competitors: A. Nelson & Co. Ltd.; Arkopharma; NBTY.

Chronology

  • Key Dates:
  • 1932: Henri and Jean Boiron establish the Laboratoire Central Homéopathique de France in Paris.
  • 1933: René Baudry and Henri Boiron take over the development of the Laboratoires Homéopathiques Modernes (LHM) in Paris; Jean Boiron oversees development of the Pharmacie Homéopathique Rhodanienne (PHR) in Lyon.
  • 1941: The Boiron brothers begin their independent business under the trademark PHR.
  • 1967: The Laboratoires Homeopathiques Jean Boiron (PHR), the Laboratoires Homéopathiques Henri Boiron (LHM), and the Laboratoires Homéopathiques Modernes merge to form Laboratoire Boiron.
  • 1968: The company opens its distribution facility in Toulouse.
  • 1974: Laboratoire Boiron moves its head offices and production plant to Ste. Foy-lès-Lyon.
  • 1983: Christian Boiron succeeds Jean Boiron as chairman; the company acquires John Borneman & Sons.
  • 1985: The Institut Boiron opens.
  • 1987: Boiron stock is offered on the Lyon Stock Exchange.
  • 1988: Laboratoires Boiron merges with Laboratoires Homéopathiques de France.
  • 1989: Boiron acquires a 35 percent interest in Unda of Belgium.
  • 1990: Boiron purchases Les Laboratoires Sibourg.
  • 2003: The company opens its HERBAXT industrial site in the Paris region.
  • 2005: Boiron purchases UNDA.
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