As a traditional pharmaceutical manufacturer, APOGEPHA Arzneimittel GmbH, has helped to write the history of pharmacy in Dresden. With urological research and product developments dating back to the 19th century, it has also entered the history books of urology in Dresden. The interesting and eventful history of APOGEPHA mirrors recent German history and is an example of committed entrepreneurship.


It started in a chemist's shop

Like many pharmaceutical companies, APOGEPHA was a chemist's shop in the beginning. In 1882, chemist C. Stephan founded a manufacturing company, which he later merged with the laboratory operations of the Kronenapotheke in Dresden to form an independent company.

After several changes of ownership, the still-existing Kronenapotheke in Dresden and the manufacturing company parted ways in 1913. Five years later, the manufacturing company, which was still operating under the name of “C. Stephan: Fabrik für chemisch-pharmazeutische Produkte” (Factory for Chemical-Pharmaceutical Products), acquired new production facilities in Dresden Striesen, which remain the company’s headquarters today.

The grim economic situation at the end of the First World War and progressive inflation forced the company to set up a joint-stock company (1921).

At this point, the Leowerke factory – and so Ottomar von Mayenburg, the inventor of Chlorodont toothpaste – joined the company management. A few years later, Leowerke took over the company completely, with 100 percent ownership. In 1931, Leowerke sold the pharmaceutical company to the Saxon Pharmacy Cooperative, which wanted to set up its own pharmaceutical production on a larger scale. However, only a short time later, the economic situation forced the chemists to go into liquidation.

APOGEPHA owes its present name to this period; the company has operated under the name “APOGEPHA” since 1931. It is derived from the former company name: “Apothekergenossenschaft für Herstellung und Vertrieb pharmazeutischer Präparate C. Stephan e. G. m. b. H.” (Pharmacists’ Cooperative for Pharmaceutical Preparations).

The Kronenapotheke in Dresden1908

A courageous new start

In 1933, when APOGEPHA, still in its infancy, was threatened with financial ruin, Dr. Ing. Johannes Starke, the then Managing Director, decided jointly with the Leipzig businessman Max Biering to buy the company out of liquidation and continue to run it – a very 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 buildings on Kyffhäuser Street were 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 just a few days after the attacks. With so-called individual packs, the city’s chemist shops and hospitals were supplied with the most important medicines.

APOGEPHA company headquarters in Dresden Striesen in the 1930s

Dr. Johannes Starke

After studying pharmacy and licensure as a chemist and completing the Chemists Association examination and a doctorate, Dr. Johannes Starke entered the service of Leowerke on 1st October 1928 at the age of 32, and shortly thereafter took over the technical management of the “C. Stephan Department”. He retained this function even after the operations had been transferred to the Pharmacy Cooperative. As Managing General Partner, he headed Apogepha until his death in 1968.

With the signing of the articles of association in April 1960, APOGEPHA became an “enterprise with state participation” (BSB) and from then on was operated under the name of “BSB Apogepha Fabrik chemisch-pharmazeutischer Präparate Dr. Starke KG” (Factory for Chemical-Pharmaceutical Products). The Deutsche Investitionsbank was the first state partner, followed by the VEB Arzneimittelwerk Dresden (AWD).

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 spatial 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 as an excuse to nationalise a company at the time.

Expropriation of the hitherto semi-state-owned company finally took place in 1972 and APOGEPHA became a nationally-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 political changes”

As early as 12th February 1991, Dr. Christian Starke signed the reprivatisation contract with a trust. APOGEPHA was therefore 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.

In 1996, the company was able to inaugurate the newly erected production facility in Lockwitz, Dresden.

APOGEPHA company headquarters in Dresden Striesen today

With the transfer of partnership shares in 2000, APOGEPHA is now in its third generation of family ownership. The Starke family has controlled the company's destiny since 2015 via a controlling advisory board.

Alongside in-house development, licensing is an important pillar in expanding the product portfolio. APOGEPHA cooperates with a number of large, internationally active pharmaceutical companies in the marketing of urological products.

In the past few years, a large network of partners has been established as part of internationalisation. APOGEPHA products are marketed in more than 20 countries.

In 2019, APOGEPHA moved away from manufacturing its own pharmaceuticals, which had been a core activity of the company for many years. This decision was reached in particular due to developments in health policy and increasing cost pressures. Since then, APOGEPHA products have been manufactured by well-known contract manufacturers in Germany and Europe maintaining the same high quality standards.

Following this decision, APOGEPHA underwent a strategic realignment focusing on the development, in-licensing and marketing of urological medicines.

APOGEPHA is now a recognised pharmaceutical company in the field of urology therapy. APOGEPHA Arzneimittel GmbH sees its core competence in the development and sale of urological medicines, even beyond Germany's borders.

Our Timeline

1882Founded by the chemist C. Stephan
1933Continued by Dr. Johannes Starke and Max Biering under the name APOGEPHA
194590 percent destruction. Extended rebuilding in the subsequent period. Inclusion of chemical synthesis into the company operations
1953Temporary expropriation
1960Inclusion of state involvement
1968Dr. Johannes Starke dies. Business continues under the direction of Dr. Christian Starke
1972Expropriation and transfer to VEB Apogepha
1974Dr. Christian Starke takes over management of research at VEB Apogepha
1983Dissolution of VEB Apogepha by incorporation in VEB Sächsisches Serumwerk Dresden
1991Reprivatisation by Dr. Christian Starke
2011Transfer of partnership shares to the third generation
2016Doubling of the sales staff
2017Expansion of international activity to include China, Canada and Spain
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