Pfizer cuts demand from Westman PMU producers

Pharmaceutical company Pfizer Canada is cutting its demand for pregnant mares’ urine by 17 per cent following an announcement made on March 29.

Another round of cuts made to the PMU (pregnant mares’ urine) industry announced by Pfizer Canada late last month will affect a total of five ranches in Manitoba and Saskatchewan.

The pharmaceutical company cuts were March 29 and results in a 17 per cent reduction in product. This is equal to 33,000 grams of estrogen. PMU ranchers are paid by the gram and not on the volume of urine produced.

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Equine ranchers are independently contracted by Pfizer to collect PMU, providing a key source of hormones used in estrogen therapies for menopausal women. 

“Pfizer routinely conducts reviews of its businesses and overall manufacturing needs and capabilities. This includes our operations in Brandon, Manitoba,” the company said in a press release. “Pfizer has initiated a review of its inventory management and we have determined that we are able to satisfy market demand by working with fewer ranchers.

 “As a result, the company has decided to reduce the size of the current PMU rancher network by five ranches. Pfizer values its network of ranchers and the decision to resize our network was not made lightly. We are committed to treating ranchers fairly and reasonably and to helping to make this transition as smooth as possible.”

The company went on to say it would help producers no longer receiving contracts by providing compensation for the care of the mares and foals as they transition out of the network. Affected ranchers will also be eligible for equine placement assistance.

Ranchers were told previously told about the cuts at a meeting on March 19. They had until late in the day on March 25 to voluntarily opt out of the program for a 75 per cent total contract payout over the following year. 

“As part of its normal business analysis, Pfizer continually reviews PMU collection requirements. Any future decisions will also be informed by an evaluation of the hormone therapy market, prescribing trends and related raw material and inventory requirements. However, Pfizer remains committed to providing PREMARIN family products worldwide,” the company said. 

The reduction affects three ranches in Westman, one in the Interlake region and another in Saskatchewan. Of those five, three producers raised registered Quarter Horses, one purebred Percherons, and one bred sport horses.

A total of 19 producers are still involved in the production of PMU in Manitoba and Saskatchewan. Remaining ranchers will sign a three-year, 18-week collection contract with a maximum cap on the grams they can produce.

When the PMU industry was at its height in the 1990s, the network involved more than 500 ranchers from across Canada and the northern United States.

The Women’s Health Initiative released in 2002 is thought to be responsible for the downturn in the equine ranching industry. The landmark study linked hormone replacement therapy (HRT) to breast cancer and heart attacks.

The first round of significant cuts in the PMU industry were announced later that year. Since then there have been several more reductions, with the last reduction in demand made in 2013.

Results of the Women’s Health Initiative have been revisited in recent years and short-term HRT is now recommended for women within 10 years of menopause.

In 2016, the PMU industry expanded slightly with more grams being contracted to some existing ranchers and three new contracts being awarded.

Three years later, cuts are being made again.

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