Who doesn’t have it in their home pharmacy? That yellow tube that provides relief when you get burnt. For 22 years now you can count on Flamigel, and we owe it to an Antwerp pharmacy alumnus, a garden party, a crawling girl and... a hot deep fryer.
Allergic to silver
‘It happened to the niece of friends of mine’, says Philippe Sollie (62), alumnus industrial pharmacy at the University of Antwerp. At the hospital, the girl was found to be allergic to a silver-based ointment. ‘Children especially reacted badly to that ointment. But there weren’t many alternatives.’ Early 1990, Sollie made an agreement with the head of the burn centre at that time, Dr Raymond Peeters. He received permission to make something in his pharmacy in Zoersel.
With each new ointment, Sollie went to Dr Peeters, who used the treatment. ‘I consulted many reference books, looking for the current state of science regarding burns and wound healing. Suddenly I was successful and Dr Peeters said: “You’ve made something great, huh. Why don’t you market that?”’
There had just been a vote on legislation to create a framework for modern wound dressings. ‘As a result, Flamigel was immediately added to the European register.’
‘I will never forget how a woman in Saudi Arabia came up to me and said: “You have no idea what difficult wounds I have managed to close with your Flamigel.” That’s really why I do this.’
The Universitair Bedrijven Centrum Antwerpen (UBCA) wanted to sign a contract with Sollie in 2000, and then Flen Farma (now Flen Health) was founded. He wanted to develop more, which became possible at the University of Antwerp’s spin-off centre. At the UBCA, he acquired a lab. Marc Van Boven, director of the university’s Board of Governors, told the board: ‘Let that Sollie be, it will be fine.’
After ten years at UBCA, they moved to their offices in Kontich. Flen Health now has about 100 employees and sister companies in the UK, Germany, the Netherlands and Luxembourg. There are also global exports to Australia, China, the Middle East, North America.
First aid in Belgium
Despite major exports, Flamigel is especially popular in Belgium as first aid for burns. ‘Abroad, Flaminal Hydro and Flaminal Forte are the most used products. These are used for specialised wound care. So the focus abroad is on visiting hospitals, although our Flamigel is gradually becoming more common there too, but mostly the RT version. This is mainly used for treating patients undergoing radiotherapy.’
Flamigel on open wounds
How revolutionary is Flamigel really? How does the ointment help better treat burns? ‘Many still think a scab should form on a wound, but a wound heals better without a scab. It must close, from the edges inwards. A scab holds back new skins cells. Flamigel removes that scab. Wounds heal faster and there is less scarring.’
‘How do I look back on this whole adventure? There were many setbacks but also many happy moments. I will never forget how a woman in Saudi Arabia came up to me and said: “You have no idea what difficult wounds I have managed to close with your Flamigel That’s really why I do this.’