Earlier this week, the U.S. government awarded a $354 million contract to a new public benefit company called Phlow to make generics that are in short supply during the pandemic. The move, which is designed to lessen U.S. reliance on foreign suppliers, prompted questions, including some about Phlow chief executive Eric Edwards, who co-founded Kaleo, a company that was scolded by a Senate subcommittee for price gouging on an opioid overdose antidote. Moreover, Phlow has not made any products, although Edwards tapped experienced pharmaceutical executives for his management team and board. Among them is the head of Civica Rx, a nonprofit that emerged in response to shortages and has created a network of companies supplying hospitals with generics. We spoke with Edwards about his reaction to the skepticism and his plans for Phlow and and its role in creating a national strategic reserve for active pharmaceutical ingredients. This conversation has been lightly edited.
Before we talk about Phlow, you have concerns about perceptions that you were involved in raising prices while at Kaleo. You and your brother founded the company. You were still a founder and owner while those pricing decisions were made. You were happy to accept the praise and publicity for the good things the company was doing, such as (product) donations… It sounds like you want it both ways. I’d like to hear your response to what you say is unfair.