A White-Paper, titled “Emerging Markets Today and Tomorrow: Insights on Healthcare, Pharmaceuticals and Future Trends in the BRIC Landscape”, released by a global technology and services company specializing in healthcare, Cegedim, in June, 2012 highlighted that 20 to 30 percent of the profit of the global pharmaceutical companies now comes from the emerging markets of Brazil, Russia, India and China (BRIC).
The paper also indicated that just five years ago these markets contributed a meager 5 percent of profits of the global pharma players. Hence, in the evolving paradigm getting the relationship right between these BRIC healthcare markets and the global pharmaceutical manufacturers will differentiate men from the boys.
Maintaining a flexible country-specific business strategy accompanied by a diverse product portfolio is going to be the name of the game in these potential eldorados, the authors articulated in the paper.
It is indeed absolute no-brainer for anyone to make out how critical the emerging markets are to the global pharmaceutical players in the rapidly evolving scenario, despite many tough legal and policy measures taken by the governments in these markets in favor of public health interest.
The Emerging Markets of the World:
Unlike developed markets, emerging pharmaceuticals market of the world, like, India, China, Brazil, Russia, Mexico, Turkey and Korea, are showing a robust growth rate, quite commensurate to the ascending GDP growth trend of these countries.
According to IMS, the CAGR trend of the developed and ‘Emerging Markets’ for the period of 2007–11, are as follows:
Key growth drivers in the Emerging Markets:
It is worth noting, unlike the developed markets of the world, where high priced branded patented drugs drive the value growth of the industry, in the emerging markets, where investment towards R&D is relatively less, branded generic and the generic products are the key growth drivers.
Such an evolving situation has prompted large global majors like Pfizer, GSK, Sanofi, Daiichi Sankyo and Abbott Laboratories, to name a few, either to acquire large generic or biosimilar or nutraceutical drug companies or ink various interesting and win-win collaborative deals in India to maintain their global business growth.
‘Enticing factors’ for India:
Expected ‘Enticing Factors’ for India, in my views, will be as follows:
- A country with 1.13 billion population and a GDP of US$ 1.8 trillion in 2011 is expected to grow at an average of 8.2 percent in the next five year period
- Public health expenditure to more than double from 1.1 percent of the GDP to 2.5 percent of GDP in the Twelfth Five Year Plan period (2012-17)
- Government will commence rolling out ‘Universal Health Coverage’ initiative
- Budget allocation of US$ 5.4 billion announced towards free distribution of essential medicines from government hospitals and health centers
- Greater plan outlay for NRHM, NUHM and RSBY projects
- Rapidly growing more prosperous middle class population of the country
- High quality, cost effective, fast growing domestic generic drug manufacturers who will have increasing penetration in both local and emerging markets
- Rising per capita income of the population and relative in-efficiency of the public healthcare systems will encourage private healthcare services of various types and scales to flourish
- Expected emergence of a robust health insurance model for all strata of society as the insurance sector is undergoing reform measures
- Fast growing Medical Tourism
- World class local outsourcing opportunities for evolving combo-business model of global pharmaceutical companies with both patented and branded generic drugs
Many global players are still out of step with time in India:
It appears many global pharma companies are still quite out of step with time in India and are trying hard to get a less challenging environment to grow their business in the country.
However, I reckon, all these companies ultimately willy-nilly will require coming to terms with the following current pharmaceutical business environment in India formulating fresh innovative strategies, earlier the better:
- Pricing pressure from the government or even from the Supreme Court, which may soon include patented and imported products under price regulation
- Current Patent Law is unlikely to change, hence threat of Compulsory Licensing (CL) for patented products with exorbitant price tags will continue to loom large
- Pressure may build-up for technology transfer/local manufacturing of patented products
- Close government scrutiny on pharmaceutical marketing practices
- More stringent drug regulatory norms, especially in areas of clinical trials
Indonesia has set an example:
Just to cite a relevant example in this context, Indonesia has clearly spelt out its intention by specifying that the pharmaceutical companies marketing their products in Indonesia will need to establish local manufacturing facilities. The new rule is directed towards local job creation.
The Health Minister of Indonesia had said, “If they want to get licenses (to sell their products) they have to invest here also, not just take advantage of the Indonesian market.” The Minister further added, “They can’t just operate like a retailer here, with an office that’s three meters by three, and make billions of rupiah. That’s not fair.” It is not unlikely that India may also come out with similar requirements for the global players for more sustainable job creation.
However, U.S. Chamber of Commerce had registered a strong protest in this matter with the President of Indonesia and has urged a reversal of this decision. However, the country appears to have taken a firm stand in this matter. This is evident when in response to the report that some global pharmaceutical companies have threatened withdrawal of their business from Indonesia because of this reason, the Health Minister had retorted, “If they want to go away, go ahead.”
Challenging to avoid current patent regime in India:
It will be extremely challenging for the global players to avoid the current patent regime in India, even if they do not like it. This is mainly because of the following reasons:
- If an innovator company decides not to file a product patent in India, it will pave the way for Indian companies to introduce copy-cat versions of the same in no time, as it were, at a fractional price in the Indian market. Further, there would also be a possibility of getting these copy-cat versions exported to the unregulated markets of the world from India at a very low price, causing potential business loss to the innovator companies.
- If any innovator company files a product patent in India, but does not work the patent within the stipulated period of three years, as provided in the patent law of the country, in that case any Indian company can apply for CL for the same with a high probability of such a request being granted by the Patent Controller.
Five ‘New Strategic Changes’ envisaged:
Five new key strategic changes, in my view, are expected in the Indian pharmaceutical market over a period of time, as follows:
1. As the country will move towards an integrated and robust ‘Universal Health Coverage’ along with comprehensive health insurance systems:
- Doctors may no longer remain the sole decision makers for the drugs that they will prescribe to the patients and the way they will treat the common diseases. Government, other healthcare providers/ medical insurance companies will start playing a key role in these areas by providing to the doctors well thought out treatment guidelines
- For a significant proportion of the products that the pharmaceutical companies will sell, tough price negotiation with the healthcare providers/ medical insurance companies will be inevitable
- More sophisticated pricing methodologies like Health Technology Assessment (HTA) or outcomes based pricing may be followed by the drug price regulators like National Pharmaceutical pricing Authority (NPPA).
2. An integrated approach towards disease prevention may be considered as important as the treatment of diseases.
3. A shift from just product marketing to marketing of a bundle of value added comprehensive disease management processes along with the product may be the order of the day
4. Over the counter medicines, especially originated from natural products for common and less serious illnesses may carve out a larger share, as appropriate regulations are put in place
5. Pharmaceutical Marketing Practices will come under intense regulatory scrutiny
Some questions on long term lucrativeness of the emerging markets?
One school of thought does feel that in the long run, the emerging pharmaceutical markets, like India, may not remain as lucrative to the global pharmaceutical majors. However, that does not mean either that the companies will shut shops in india.
The key reason being, around 80 percent ‘out of pocket’ expenditure for healthcare in India, could be the key impediment to expanded access to higher priced innovative medicines, in general.
Such a situation could seriously limit the success of branded patented drugs in the country as compared to the developed markets of the world. The issue of affordability of such medicines will continue to be a key factor for their improved access in India, if the ground reality remains unchanged.
Top line business growth with Generics and Branded Generics in the emerging markets may not be sustainable enough, in the long run, for the innovator companies to adequately fund their R&D initiatives to create expected shareholders’ value.
The opposite school of thought:
The other school of thought, however, argues that ‘out-of pocket” characteristic of India is indeed more sustainable in terms of cost containment pressure, than those markets where the government or health insurance companies cover a large part of the medical expenses for the population.
Every year around 1 percent of population comes above the poverty line in India together with a growing ‘middle income’ segment with increasing purchasing power. This cycle, in turn, will keep fueling the growth of healthcare space, contributing significantly to the progress of the pharmaceutical industry of the country.
Be that as it may, to excel in India global pharmaceutical companies will need to find out innovative win-win strategies for all the above India specific issues.
Drug pricing, public health oriented patent regime, technology transfer/local manufacturing of products and stringent regulatory requirements in all pharmaceutical industry related areas, in the interest of the general population, are expected to be the key areas to be expeditiously addressed in the business models of the global pharmaceutical companies for India.
That said, despite various tough measures taken by the government in favor of public interest, as mentioned above, India will continue to remain too enticing a pharmaceutical market to ignore by the global players probably for any time to come in future. If not, many experts believe, flourishing and dynamic domestic pharmaceutical industry will be delighted to have the whole cake and eat it too.
By: Tapan J Ray
Disclaimer: The views/opinions expressed in this article are entirely my own, written in my individual and personal capacity. I do not represent any other person or organization for this opinion.