American pharmacy shoppers have been buying Dr. Fischer’s products for years –
they just didn’t know it. Major chains including Rite Aid, CVS and Duane Read
have sold the Israeli entrepreneur’s products under their own generic brands,
with only an innocuous line of white lettering reading “Made in Israel” ever
hinting that the product was made by Dr. Eli Fischer.
“We made Purell
wipes for Purell before Pfizer bought them,” says Fischer, who founded the
company with his wife, Dvora, in 1965.
Having built up its US product
sales to millions of dollars annually over the course of 10 years, Fischer
Pharmaceuticals decided it was time to emerge from behind the generic
“If you have a brand, it’s harder to undercut,” Fischer says,
“so we decided to develop our brand in the United States.”
Though it will
continue selling a wide range of products, such as sunscreen and vitamins,
through US retailers using generic branding, the company has begun marketing
some of its eyecare products under its own name.
Key among them is an
eyelid wipe that, due to its sterile hydrating formula, does not require
washing, one of Fischer’s proudest recent innovations.
“We, by chance,
understand both eyes and wipes,” he says, adding that keeping eyelids clean from
debris, pollen, allergens and bacteria can be an important preventive measure
against eye complications and deterioration of eyesight. “Eye hygiene is as
important as dental hygiene.”
Fischer should know. He was a member of the
research team that developed the glaucoma drug EPPY, once the leading treatment
for the disease, and worked as a research assistant to Nobel Prize winner Dr.
George Wald, who discovered the important linkage between vitamin A and
Fischer, 77, was born in Czechoslovakia and immigrated to Israel
with his family when he was three, on the same day the German army entered
He studied biochemistry and microbiology at the Hebrew University
of Jerusalem and earned a doctorate in pharmacology at the University of
California Medical Center and a fellowship at Harvard.
Fischer got his
feet wet in the corporate world in the Untied States. But his heart was in
Israel. After a stint at Barnes-Hind, where Dvora learned quality control, he
took some seed money to start his own business in Bnei Brak. His experience in
the US paid off.
He was the first Israeli manufacturer, for example, who
had learned how to sterilize plastic bottles for eye drops.
In 1973, as
he was awaiting the lengthy process of Health Ministry approval for his betodine
formula, the Yom Kippur War broke out. With the approval of regulators, they
began distributing the product to help treat soldiers’ burns.
company is co-chaired by two of Fischer’s three daughters, Nurit and Sigal,
while he remains active in its operations as an “abbassador” for the brand,
especially its expansion in the US.
The company employs 700 people and
has facilities in Bnei Brak, the Galilee and Tzrifin. It has expanded to five
main production areas: children’s products, sunscreen, cosmetic treatment,
toiletries and nutritional supplements.
The bronze-colored bottle of
their Ultrasol sunscreen, a staple at beachside kiosks as well as pharmacies,
exemplifies their pharmaceutical philosophy.
“Everything is anti-aging,
even shampoo,” Fischer says. While any old bathroom soap could clean your hair
for the short term, he says, repeated use would start to take its toll on your
hair and scalp. The products they create, whether sunscreen, shampoo or
vitamins, are designed not to aggravate cells’ natural deterioration but prevent
“Aging happens in the whole body, not just the face,” Fischer says.
“But you can slow down the process.”
In addition to exporting two daily
shipping containers each to Europe and the US, the company also has a healthy
presence in the West Bank, where its products are marked in English, Hebrew and
“Peace, we must say, is also good for business,” says Fischer, a
proud peace activist. “If there’s peace, we’ll sell 10 times as much.”