When you really need an answer -- fast -- toss out the crystal ball and bring in Alere. The company offers both professional and consumer diagnostic tests as well as health management services. Its professional diagnostic products include tests for cancers, cardiovascular disease, drugs of abuse, infectious diseases, and women's health, including pregnancy tests and fertility monitors. The firm's Alere Health division provides health management services including wellness programs, disease monitoring, and care coordination for patients with complex conditions. Alere also makes consumer diagnostics, including First Check drug tests, through a venture with Procter & Gamble. Acquisitive Alere was founded in 2001.
The US accounts for about 60% of Alere's sales. The company maintains its primary manufacturing sites in China, Japan, Norway, South Korea, and the US. It has secondary manufacturing facilities in parts of Europe, Australia, India, Israel, and South Africa. Alere conducts its main research and development in Germany, the UK, and the US. It maintains distribution operations in in Asia, Europe, North America, and South America.
Secure in the professional diagnostics industry, Alere has diversified in recent years into fields including health management and health information technology companies through its Alere Health business. The company's Alere Disease Management Program is marketed to health plans and self-insured employers to help manage the costs associated with plan participants who have chronic or expensive health conditions. Other offerings include complex care management, home monitoring, patient self-testing, obstetrics, oncology, and wellness programs.
Alere's smaller consumer diagnostics business, which distributes tests to consumers through retail drug and grocery retailers, are handled through a joint venture with Proctor & Gamble that was formed in 2007. Alere put all of its OTC pregnancy and fertility test brands into the pot and agreed to do all of the manufacturing while P&G tossed in $325 million. Operating under the name SPD Swiss Precision Diagnostics, the venture took over the marketing of such brands as Clearblue Easy, Fact Plus, and Accu-Clear.
Sales and Marketing
Alere's professional products are sold through the company's sales force, as well as through distribution networks to hospitals, laboratories, and physicians' offices. Its First Check consumer drug testing products are sold throughout the US in drugstores, grocery stores, and by mass merchants, as well as drug wholesalers.
In 2012 the company's net revenue increased 18% to more than $2.8 billion from about $2.4 billion in 2011. 2012 marked the fourth consecutive year of rising sales for Alere. However, the company posted a net loss of about $78 million in 2012, its third straight year in the red.
Sales of Alere's professional diagnostics products surged 25% in 2012 vs. the prior year, while its other business segments lagged. Sales in the US and Europe posted double-digit gains, while other countries experienced declines.
Alere has grown significantly through what can only be described as an acquisition rampage. Since 2003 the company has bought up consumer and professional-grade diagnostic product lines and entire companies to establish its dominance in the diagnostics market. Acquisitions brought in diagnostics for home use, point-of-care tests, drug and parasite screening products, and cholesterol and cancer diagnostics among others. To reflect its growing diversification, the company changed its name to Alere in 2010 and rebranded many of its products and services.
In 2013 the company was awarded a grant of up to $21.6 million and debt financing of as much as $20.6 million from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to fund the development of a tuberculosis assay.
Mergers and Acquisitions
In 2013 Alere acquired Epocal, a Canadian maker of blood analysis systems, for $166 million; the deal was first arranged in 2010 when the companies struck a five-year distribution agreement for Epocal's Epoc blood analysis system for blood gas and electrolyte testing at the point-of-care (hospitals and physicians' offices). Previously, late in 2012 the company bought Arriva Medical, a provider of diabetes testing supplies to individuals in their homes for about $65 million.
Alere expanded its toxicology business in 2012 when it acquired employee drug testing firm eScreen for some $270 million. The purchase added an automated technology platform that allows for optical scanning of urine samples, with results reported electronically to employers within minutes of testing. Other recent purchases include Avee Laboratories, a privately-owned provider of drug testing services based in Tampa, Florida.
Alere further expanded its point-of-care offerings through the acquisition of UK-based Axis-Shield in late 2011 for some $375 million. The purchase added point-of-care diagnostics for bacterial and viral infection, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes.