It was 1991, and my father, a Scottsdale dentist, wanted to find a cheaper, gentler way to treat the bacterial infections that had been causing bad breath and painful gums among his patients for decades.
A retired UC San Francisco researcher, he teamed up with six other dentists, and together they created CloSYS toothpaste and mouthwash. Made with stabilized chlorine dioxide—a chemical that had effectively treated a handful of my father’s former patients — CloSYS products proved widely successful, and business took off.
25 years later, the brand is still growing, especially as researchers find more connections between gum disease and systemic diseases like diabetes and COPD. Our products have gone from being marketed via word of mouth and sold only to a few dental offices, to becoming available in tens of thousands of stores worldwide.
But expansion hasn’t been easy. Rowpar, the pharmaceutical company I manage that sells CloSYS products, often abandons export opportunities due to product regulation requirements and patent expenses. Though we are still in the game — quite a feat for a nine-person business competing with industry giants like Proctor & Gamble and Johnson & Johnson — our future success may depend on whether or not Congress passes trade legislation, such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
First, TPP could help us avoid future intellectual property theft. A few years ago, an international firm misappropriated our toothpaste formulas and sold counterfeit products in their country. Rowpar had to spend hundreds of thousands in litigation fees, and vacancies in the U.S. District Court of Arizona meant we had to wait longer for our case to process.
By creating and safeguarding firm patent protection policies consistent with U.S. laws, TPP would give us the security needed to forge future client relationships.
TPP would also make it easier for us to sell in countries where differing regulations currently keep us out. Recently, expensive registration costs prohibited us from exporting to several South American dental clinics. TPP would streamline technical regulations across the 12 participating nations, negating unscientific restrictions on made-in-America pharmaceutical products and lessening the likelihood of missed opportunities.
Still, TPP is not just important for Rowpar. It’s also necessary for the Arizona and U.S. economies. Last year, Arizona grossed $2.26 billion in exports, a 6.2 percent increase from 2014. Small and medium-sized enterprises like my company accounted for nearly 30 percent of that $2.26 billion, over half of which came from countries who have trade agreements with the U.S. Exporting allowed Arizona to support 93,354 jobs in 2014.
Even so, many of the firms Rowpar works with are against TPP because they do not realize the ways international trade already benefits them. Rowpar buys toothpaste tubes in Tennessee, bottles in Arizona and California, boxes in California, and ingredients in Oklahoma. We also rely on companies in Colorado, Illinois, Kansas, Utah, and Indiana for packaging and storage. Each bottle of toothpaste we export, then, benefits not only Rowpar, but also these firms. Companies should consider the whole supply chain before taking a stance on trade; they might find they depend significantly on agreements like TPP.
Therefore, I urge Congress to pass TPP, as it’s the best choice for small businesses and Arizona. It was my father’s intention to create a product to help patients get and stay healthy. With better trade policies, our company will be able to share our products with millions of new patients and fortify the economy in the process. Without them, we may see further threats from cheap imports and knock-off goods.
Editor’s note: Mr. Ratcliff is the president and CEO of Rowpar Pharmaceuticals, Inc.