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The State: As demand for respiratory treatment spikes from coronavirus, SC company seeks expansion

March 18, 2020

A West Columbia pharmaceutical company is looking to expand its production as orders spike for treatments used to combat respiratory illnesses, including COVID-19, which is caused by the novel coronavirus.

Americans, whether they know it, may be reliant on the company because Nephron, and the Columbia-based the Ritedose Corporation, produce about 98% of the inhalation solution used in the country, Nephron CEO Lou Kennedy said.

As of Tuesday afternoon, South Carolina has seen at least 47 cases of the coronavirus, an infection known to affect people with respiratory issues worse than others. There have been more than 5,500 cases across the country, leading to more than 100 deaths.

Nephron Pharmaceuticals Corporation usually produces about 85 million doses a month of inhalation solution used in nebulizers used to treat respiratory issues. Lou Kennedy, the CEO of the company said the company eight product lines are operating 24 hours a day year round.

But just halfway through March, Kennedy said Nephron has orders for 87 million doses, running 48% higher than normal.

Since the beginning of the year, the company has been in contact with the FDA to seek approval to operate its six additional product and ramp up production to better supply hospitals, pharmacies, home care companies and long-term care facilities. It’s unclear if that will happen or when.

A meeting with the federal agency is scheduled for later this month to discuss next steps, Kennedy said.

The company is capable of producing 110 million doses a month, but wants to be able to increase its capacity by 50 million to 60 million doses, Kennedy said. They have enough people to ramp up production, with its roughly 2,000 full and part-time employees.

The company has the inventory to handle orders, but wants to make sure it could to meet demands if needs continue to grow.

“We make sure to be very rock solid in our preparation to accommodate the needs of America,” Kennedy said.

Nephron has also opened a childcare facility from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. to help employees with their children, as schools have been closed around the state.