The Story of Penicillin and Sulfa Drugs: Miracle Antibiotics that Resulted in Nobel Prizes

S Pharma is a Quality Leader in Wholesale and Retail Pharmaceutical Sales and Distribution in Ukraine

Vertical Integration and Strategic Alliances are Keys to Success

Acceptance of the Nobel Prize in 1939 earned Gerhard Domagk a week in jail.

Miracle Drugs earn the Nobel Prize

Two important breakthroughs within ten years of each other changed the treatment of infection for decades to come. The first, in 1935, was the discovery of the first sulfa drug by the German biochemist Gerhard Domagk. He had noticed that certain dyes had an affinity for bacterial cells, and speculated that they might affect bacterial growth inside the body. He was having some success testing a red dye called Prontosil in mice when Domagk was faced with a crisis. His own daughter had developed a life threatening infection after surgery. He gave the girl Prontosil, and she recovered.

Domagk’s employer, Bayer, hoped to make a huge profit on the drug, but it turns out that Prontosil only works when broken down by the body into components which include its active ingredient, sulfanilamide. Although Domagk had discovered (indirectly) that sulfanilamide was an antibacterial, the molecule had been synthesized decades earlier and was part of the public domain. Nonetheless, Domagk received the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1939, spent a week in jail when he tried to accept it contrary to German law, then got his medal after the war, but no money. Famously, sulfa drugs saved Franklin Roosevelt Jr. and Winston Churchill. The story of Penicillin is equally intriguing. Most people know that Sir Alexander Fleming discovered penicillin because some mold had serendipitously contaminated some bacterial cultures. Fleming noticed that the mold had inhibited the growth of staphylococci he’d left on plates during holiday. He identified the mold, discovered the active ingredient and named it penicillin, and published his findings. However, he didn’t pursue the matter any further, thinking the active ingredient was too difficult to produce. A pharmacist named Florey and a biochemist named Chain later managed to purify penicillin in larger quantities, in part by growing it on corn byproducts. By the end of WWII, sulfa drugs and penicillin had saved many soldiers’ lives, and Fleming, Florey and Chain shared the 1945 Nobel.

S Pharma, and Up and Comer in Ukraine

Development of wonder drugs is not the only thing that pharmaceutical companies do. Once a drug is discovered, it has to be tested, approved, marketed and distributed. The business is international and employs millions. In order to remain competitive in today’s market, pharmacy retailers, manufacturers and distributors are forming partnerships, taking advantage of natural synergies and economies of scale. One company in Ukraine that is on the vanguard of this trend is S Pharm, headquartered in Kiev.

Although the company was only founded in 2010, it has racked up an impressive array of awards and alliances that makes it a leader in the wholesaling, retailing and distribution of pharmaceuticals in the country. S Pharm is ISO 9001:2008 certified, has won important awards for 2013, 2014, 2015, has won the Pharmaceutical Distribution award for 2015, and the National Golden Symbol of Quality Goods and Services for 2014.

Wholesale Business

S Pharma distributes pharmaceutical products throughout Ukraine to hospitals and pharmacies. They are the distributor for Baxter International Inc, itself a recipient of dozens of corporate citizenship and quality awards just in the past 5 years. Another company whose products S Pharma distributes is AAR PHARMA, a company already internationally certified as using Good Manufacturing Practices -- the industries highest certification.

Additionally, S Pharma works with Optima Pharm, the leading distributor of medical devices and provider of cutting edge medical care in Ukraine. S Pharma also has a DNA laboratory with complete diagnostic capabilities.

Retail and Innovation

S Pharma operates more than 20 pharmacies throughout the region around Kiev, providing a seamless network of service to its customers. By leveraging its relationships, S Pharma is able to offer the most complete menu of pharmacy products and services at affordable prices.

S Pharma, in collaboration with Venta, offers electronic documentation to its customers, not only helping to save the environment, but making the entire process more agile and accurate.

Completing the Chain

In addition to its wholesale and retail business, S Pharma is integrated in two very important aspects of pharmacy: registration and logistics. On the registration side, S Pharma’s staff of professionals works on the registration of medicinal products, medical devices and Biologically Active Additives in Ukraine. The company currently does this work only for its own products, but expanding the service to others may be in the works. On the logistics side, S Pharma has been an industry leader in the safe warehousing, storage and chain of custody control of pharmaceutical products in Ukraine. Pharmaceutical products are very expensive goods and often require very specific handling conditions. Not only that, but safety in drugs is critical. The result is that pharmaceutical logistics is complex and requires robust systems with highly trained personnel. Having a pharmaceutical company manage logistics is an innovative solution to the special handling requirements demanded by these products, allowing S Pharma to take advantage of its staff of pharmacists, technicians, and others who are typically not available at a logistics company. Moreover, since S Pharma also performs logistics services for its own retail outlets, customers can be assured that S Pharma understands the particular needs of their clients’ businesses. This allows customized solutions from both a drug safety and a retail point of view. Distribution is accomplished with strict adherence to Current Good Manufacturing Practices and Good Distribution Practices as those are defined by international pharmaceutical standards. All warehouses are properly certified, specialized staff is available 24 hours a day to resolve tricky issues, tracking, chain of custody and quarantine services are provided using the latest technology, a robust system of surveillance, alarms and alerts are in place for unauthorized intrusion, temperature variation, and access, and all of the information is available in real time. The BID committee was particularly impressed by the seamless network of well respected partners that S Pharma has been able to attract, its innovative use of professionals to provide services not normally associated with retail or wholesale pharmacies, and its controlled but rapid growth in such a short time.

Because of its commitment to continuous quality improvement, S Pharma has been selected to receive the BID Quality Crown Award for 2015 at the convention in London.


BID is a private and independent organization founded in 1984, whose primary activity is business communication orientated towards quality, excellence and innovation in management. A leader in the broadcasting of Quality Culture, BID recognizes those companies and organizations which lead the most important activities in the business world, and is considered the founding organization in the broadcasting of the Culture of Quality, Excellence and Innovation in 179 countries. The trophy symbolizes a pledge to the principles of Quality Culture. The QC100 Total Quality Management Model, together with the Quality Mix program, media coverage of the convention and its impact on the community and business sector, create an unmatched platform for continuous improvement within the organization and awareness of the achievements of the company at an international level. Awards are given only to those who are committed to improving their Quality Culture based on the principles of the QC100 Total Quality Management Model. Candidates are proposed by the leaders of previously awarded companies who they consider worthy of the award. Especially meritorious candidates may also be nominated. The International BID Quality Award Selection Committee then chooses the winning companies who will receive the award in New York, Paris, Geneva, Frankfurt, Madrid and London.