Calling Dr. Fischer

Healthcare has always been a part of my home.

Healthcare and technology [Illustrative] (photo credit: PIXABAY)
Healthcare and technology [Illustrative]
(photo credit: PIXABAY)
Dr. Fischer is one of the most well-known brands in Israel, and there’s probably not a household that doesn’t contain one of the company’s healthcare products. The founder of the company, Dr. Eli Fischer, recently sat down with The Jerusalem Post to discuss the success of the family business and the health innovations taking place in the industry.
Dr. Fischer has been around for almost 55 years. How did it actually start?
Healthcare has always been a part of my home. My grandfather, my father and even my uncle were doctors, so maybe as a result of what I saw at home I became interested in medications. I always wanted to develop natural remedies on the kibbutz, to grow plants and make herbal remedies. That was the idea. I invested in my studies: I earned two master’s degrees from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem: a master’s degree in biochemistry and a master’s degree in microbiology. At the same time, I was an assistant at the university’s Department of Herbal Medicine, at the School of Pharmacy.
As I was finishing my schooling, I was invited to Harvard in the US, where I was a teaching fellow in biochemistry. There I worked with Prof. George Wald, who received a Nobel Prize for making the connection between Vitamin A and retinal function. I worked with him for a year, in theoretical research. And I mainly wanted to develop drugs, that’s what interested me.
In order to complete my medical studies, such as in diagnostic, toxicology, pharmacology and physiology methods, I enrolled in pharmacy schools in San Francisco. As part of my studies, I developed a treatment for glaucoma, which was sold worldwide. For several years, this was the treatment for glaucoma.
When I came back to Israel, I worked for a year in charge of developing drugs in a company called Assia – today it’s Teva. Still, I wanted to develop my own medications and to be part of the industry. I was already a married man and a father to our first daughter. With only $5,000 in my pocket, I rented a building in the Bnei Brak industrial area. It was 100 sq.m. at $115 a month. My wife helped me with the administrative duties and I developed the medicine. I had no intention of setting up a factory, but I just wanted to develop drugs and so I did. There I developed skin and eye medications.
The plan was to sell the drugs to drug factories to manufacture them and sell them, and I would get the royalties so that I could continue to develop drugs. I met with doctors and pharmacists at pharmacies in parallel with my work in the lab. It was like that for almost two years.
And then I slowly brought in another pharmacist, another salesperson, and so on. Development was gradual, each time another treatment and another market. Today there are almost a thousand people working at Dr. Fischer, and over the years I have developed close to 40 eye treatments, in addition to skin treatments such as Polydine and anti-lice products. In addition, we currently export to 30 countries and every day we export four containers, except on Shabbat.
How did you go from a factory that only included your wife and you to a factory that employs a thousand people?
Slowly and with hard work. There was no single, dramatic turning point, it was one step at a time. We added the Ultrasol sunblock about 15 years after we opened the factory on March 8, 1965. Before that we launched the Kamil Blue baby products series.
What is anti-aging?
The phrase anti-aging is awful because every product says it is anti-aging and usually it has nothing to do with it. We call it: APS – Age Protection System. It’s basically a whole system that is working together. Aging is when one of the thousands of biochemical processes that happen in the body occurs in a non-optimal way. The body needs raw materials, like vitamins and minerals, for all processes to happen. It’s enough that when one of the thousands of processes that happen in the body does not happen optimally then aging occurs. Aging basically starts from age zero as a baby – you have to make sure the child doesn’t overeat, that it’s not in the sun, that you don’t smoke next to it, and that it gets food that contains all the vitamins, minerals and proteins it needs. If you don’t give that to the baby, it won’t grow properly or will even die. Even at an adult age, you should avoid smoking, do exercise and make sure that the food you eat incorporates all the ingredients your body needs. In addition, the skin must be protected from the sun because you won’t see the damage when you’re young, it only appears as you age. Ultrasol should be applied all the time to the skin because there is incremental damage to the DNA. Slowly, our DNA breaks down and you finally see it, both externally and in the inner layers of the skin.
There are preparations that nourish the skin with the vitamins it needs and there are vitamins that need to be given internally, which are then absorbed into the blood system. A vitamin is a substance that the body needs but cannot produce on its own and must be supplied from an external source. That’s why we have our Opti-Safe, our blend of vitamins and minerals. What is special about our product is the five to six natural ingredients we added that help slow down age-related macular degeneration (AMD), a problem of retinal degeneration in old age that can cause blindness. These supplements slow the development of AMD by 25 to 50%.
What are you most proud of?
I have done a lot of hard work over the years. My job is my hobby. Two of my daughters are running the company, Dr. Nurit Harel and Sigal Bar-On. They’ve replaced me. Today I have no definitive role. I am called “the founder.” I don’t sign checks and there’s no need to advise with me, because they’re running it beautifully. Better than me, I think. Of course, they do consult with me every now and then. Nurit studied pharmacology and has a master’s degree in genetics and a PhD in medical sciences, and she is very active in the Manufacturers Association of Israel. Sigal studied economics and international relations and has a master’s degree. Moshe Zilberstein has been the CEO for several years now, who isn’t part of our family. In the end, we need the best CEO there is, and it doesn’t matter whether he is from the family or not. We hire the best people.
I am proud of the Dr. Fischer brand, which is such a strong brand in the country that even if someone were to buy the company, or it would go public on the stock exchange, the brand is a huge asset. Ask mothers, and not just mothers, everyone knows Dr. Fischer. Every day I come across someone who tells me how much he loves our products. We are in almost every home in Israel.