As a traditional pharmaceutical manufacturer, and with urological research and product development dating back to the 19th century, APOGEPHA Arzneimittel GmbH has helped to write the history of pharmacy and urology in Dresden. At the same time, APOGEPHA’s interesting and eventful history mirrors recent German history and is an example of committed entrepreneurship.

  • It started in a pharmacy
  • A courageous new start
  • APOGEPHA as a semi-state-owned company
  • "Enforced voluntariness"
  • The miracle of reunification
  • Historical overview

It started in a pharmacy

The "Kronen"-Pharmacy in Dresden

Like many pharmaceutical companies of the time, APOGEPHA arose from a pharmacy. In 1882, pharmacist C. Stephan set up his own laboratory, which later combined with the laboratory of the "Kronen"-Pharmacy in Dresden to become an independent company.

After several changes of ownership, the still-existing “Kronen”-Pharmacy and the manufacturing company parted ways in 1913. Five years later, APOGEPHA moved to new manufacturing premises in Dresden-Striesen, which remain the company’s headquarters today.

The grim economic situation at the end of the First World War forced the company – which still operated under the name "C. Stephan; Fabrik für chemisch-pharmazeutische Produkte" ("Factory for Chemical Pharmaceutical Products") – to set up a joint-stock company (1921).

At this point, the “Leowerke” factory, including Ottomar von Mayenburg, the inventor of “Chlorodont” toothpaste, joined the company management. A few years later, Leowerke took over the company fully, with 100 percent ownership. In 1931 Leowerke sold the pharmaceutical company to the Saxon Pharmacy Cooperative, which wanted to set up its own pharmaceutical laboratory. But only a short time later, the economic situation forced the pharmacists to go into liquidation.

APOGEPHA owes its present name, which the company has used since 1931, to this period. It stands for: "Apotheker Genossenschaft für pharmazeutische Präparate" (Pharmacists' Cooperative for Pharmaceutical Preparations).

A courageous new start

APOGEPHA company headquarters in Dresden-Striesen in the 1930s
APOGEPHA company headquarters in Dresden-Striesen in the 1930s

In 1933, when APOGEPHA, still in its infancy, was threatened with financial ruin, Dr Johannes Starke, the then managing director, decided jointly with the Leipzig businessman Max Biering to buy the company out of liquidation and continue it – a highly courageous decision at that time, to which the company owes its continued existence and further development.

The years of economic upturn were followed in 1945 by the almost complete destruction of APOGEPHA. On the night of 13th to 14th February 1945, 90 percent of the building on Kyffhäuser Street was destroyed. It was thanks to the personal involvement of Dr Johannes Starke and his staff, who promptly began to rebuild the premises, and to the company management’s wise stockpiling, that APOGEPHA was the first pharmaceutical company in Dresden to be able to deliver medicines again a few days after the attacks. With so-called individual packs, the city’s pharmacies and hospitals were supplied with the most important medications.

The years after the war were a test of survival for APOGEPHA too. The range of medicines and supply of raw materials were drastically restricted, and as a result, on some days the company feared that it would not achieve the necessary minimum sales to continue in existence. In this period, Dr Johannes Starke made greater efforts to obtain contract orders and began to introduce chemical synthesis to the company’s operations.

However, the boom in private industry was a thorn in the communist East German government’s side. In 1953 a "temporary expropriation" took place. During a company inspection lasting a week, a suitable motive was sought and finally found. Dr Johannes Starke was expelled and a trustee was appointed. In view of the growing political pressure, all restrictive measures were withdrawn on 9th June 1953.

APOGEPHA as a semi-state-owned company

In subsequent years, there was an enormous growth in production, not least due to the development of foreign business. Dr Johannes Starke endeavoured at this time to meet the needs of this growth by the renewal and expansion of the company’s technical and material equipment. With great personal commitment, he fought for urgently needed investment.

On 1st January 1967, the semi-state-owned APOGEPHA merged with "BSB Dr. Kirch" in Dresden-Weißig. The merger provided advantages for both companies. The aim above all was to eliminate the restrictions that were preventing further development of the company, especially in the area of research, development and production of new pharmaceutical preparations.

After the death of Dr Johannes Starke in 1968, his son Dr Christian Starke took over management of the company. This was not entirely a matter of course as a generational change was often used at the time as an excuse to nationalise a company.

"Enforced voluntariness"

Expropriation of the hitherto semi-state-owned company finally took place in 1972 and APOGEPHA became a fully state-owned enterprise (VEB). Under economic and political pressure, Dr Christian Starke made a "voluntary declaration" on 3rd April 1972 to sell APOGEPHA to the state. Initially, he took over management of "VEB Apogepha".

On 1st July 1974, VEB Apogepha was amalgamated with "VEB Pharmaka", an enterprise that had previously grown out of the merger of smaller expropriated pharmaceutical companies. The then manager of VEB Pharmaka took over management of this enterprise. Dr Christian Starke gave up his management role because he was not prepared to make political compromises. From then on, he managed VEB Apogepha's research division.

With its incorporation in "Sächsisches Serumwerk Dresden" in 1983, APOGEPHA reached the nadir of its company history, as it completely lost its financial and legal existence.

"The miracle of reunification"

APOGEPHA’s company headquarters today in Dresden-Striesen
APOGEPHA’s company headquarters today in Dresden-Striesen

As early as 12th February 1991, Dr Christian Starke signed the reprivatisation contract with the Treuhandanstalt ("Trust Agency") that was responsible for privatising East German enterprises. APOGEPHA Arzneimittel GmbH thus was one of the first pharmaceutical companies in the newly formed German states to be reprivatised. Hardly any period in APOGEPHA's history was so fast-moving and full of changes as this: reprivatisation, founding a legally independent company, setting up infrastructure, creating the conditions for further marketability of the products, building up sales and much more – all of this had to be done virtually at the same time.

Manufacturing site in Dresden-Lockwitz
Manufacturing site in Dresden-Lockwitz

Since then, APOGEPHA has developed into a recognised pharmaceutical company in the area of urology. APOGEPHA sees its core competence in the development, manufacture and sale of urological medicines, including beyond Germany’s borders. Cooperation and licence agreements with partners in Japan, the United Kingdom and Turkey are examples of the company's growing international commitment. With investment in a new manufacturing site, which began operations in 1996, APOGEPHA has committed itself to its location. In 2010/2011, APOGEPHA again invested more than 9 million euro in the technical expansion of the manufacturing site in Dresden-Lockwitz.

Since Henriette Starke took over in 2000, management of the independent family-run company is now continuing in the third generation.

Historical overwiev

1882 Founded by the pharmacist C. Stephan
1933 Continued by Dr Johannes Starke and Max Biering under the name APOGEPHA
1945 90 percent destruction. Extended rebuilding in the subsequent period. Inclusion of chemical synthesis in company operations
1953 Temporary expropriation
1960 Inclusion of state involvement
1968 Dr Johannes Starke dies. Business continues under the direction of Dr Christian Starke
1972 Expropriation and transfer to VEB Apogepha
1974 Dr Christian Starke takes over management of research at VEB Apogepha
1983 Dissolution of VEB Apogepha by incorporation in VEB Sächsisches Serumwerk Dresden
1991 Reprivatisation by Dr Christian Starke
1993 Start of exports to Japan
1996 Opening of the new production site in Dresden-Lockwitz
2000 Henriette Starke takes over management of the company
2011 Transfer of shares in the company to the third generation
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