Just Born A Pharma Goliath: Would India Be Impacted?

Just born a potential pharma Goliath, as Actavis – the Dublin-based one of the largest global generic drug makers, in its biggest ever purchase, acquires New York based R&D based pharma major – Forest Laboratories, for a whopping US$ 25 billion.

It is worth noting that as on date Actavis has grown mainly through Mergers and Acquisition (M&A) route. In 2012, the company took over American generic drug major Watson Pharma for €4.5 bn and then Ireland’s Warner Chilcott, marketing patented drugs for gastrointestinal and urological conditions, for US $8.5 bn. Post buy out of Forest Laboratories, Actavis would have annual sales turnover of US$15 bn.

So far, mostly R&D based Pharma players acquired generic drug makers:

This acquisition is interesting. The reason being, since the last few years, mostly research based global pharmaceutical companies are taking over generic pharma players in the emerging markets with a reasonable speed. To cite a few examples:

In June, 2010, British drug major GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) announced acquisition of ‘Phoenix’, a leading Argentine pharmaceutical company focused on the development, manufacturing and marketing of branded generic products, for a cash consideration of around US $253 million. With this acquisition, GSK planned to accelerate its business growth in Argentina and the Latin American region.

Similarly, Paris based Sanofi with the acquisition of Zentiva, became an important player in the European generic drug market. Zentiva, is also a leading generic player in the Czech, Turkish, Romanian, Polish, Slovak and Russian markets, besides the Central and Eastern European region. In addition to Zentiva, in the same year 2009, Sanofi also acquired other two important generic players, Medley in Brazil and Kendrick in Mexico.

In February 2014, the German Drug major Bayer reportedly announced that it would buy Dihon Pharmaceutical Group Co of China, expanding the German company’s footprint in a key growth country. Dihon’s products are also sold in Nigeria, Vietnam, Myanmar and Cambodia. Privately held Dihon specializes in ‘Over-The-Counter (OTC)’ and herbal ‘Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)’ products.

Back home, MNCs acquired the following generic companies from 2006 to 2011:

Year Indian Companies Multinational Companies

Value ($Mn)

Type of Deal
2006 Matrix Labs Mylan 736 Acquisition
2008 Ranbaxy Labs Daiichi Sankyo 4,600 Acquisition
Dabur Pharma Fresenius Kabi 219 Acquisition
2009 Shantha Biotech Sanofi-aventis 783 Acquisition
2010 Orchid Chemicals Hospira 400 Acquisition
Piramal Healthcare Abbott 3,720 Acquisition
Paras Pharma Reckitt Benckiser 726 Acquisition
2011 Universal Medicare Sanofi 110 Acquisition
2013 Mylan Agila Specialities 1750 Acquisition

Key drivers for generic acquisition:

From 2012 to 2015 patented drugs with a combined turnover of US$ 183 billion have already faced or would face intense generic competition resulting in, as high as, around 90 percent price erosion for those products. It is not just patent expirations that are exerting pressure on innovator companies. Added to this, a relatively weak R&D pipeline and increasing focus of various governments to reduce healthcare costs, have forced many research based global pharma players to imbibe the inorganic growth strategy in the generic space to quickly grab a sizable share of this large and fast growing market, especially in the emerging economies of the world.

Actavis acquisition is different:

In the above light Actavis’s acquisition of Forest Laboratories is quite different. Here, instead of a predominantly research-based company’s acquiring a generic player, a basically generic drug major has bought a research based global pharmaceutical player.

Interestingly, Forest Laboratories follows a unique R&D model. It is focused on, instead of discovering on its own, identifying strong medically relevant product candidates and guiding them through the complex development lifecycle, from proof-of-concept through post-marketing.

Strong global portfolio of both generic and patented drugs:

Post buy out, Actavis would have a strong combo-portfolio of generic drugs together with a relatively robust line-up of a diverse range of patented products, spanning across therapy areas such as Anti-Infective, Respiratory, Cardiovascular, Central Nervous System, Gastrointestinal, Obstetrics and Pain Management and that too not just in the emerging markets, but globally, unlike many others.

In addition, acquisition of Forest Laboratories would also provide Actavis access to former’s large US sales teams, transforming the merged entity a formidable force to reckon with in the topmost pharmaceutical market of the world, besides many others.

An intriguing recent decision:

That said, it is interesting to note that in January 2014, Actavis, then the second-biggest generic drug maker by market capitalization, announced that it would quit China as “It is not a business friendly environment… China is just too risky”. This is indeed intriguing, because by 2015, China’s generic market is expected to be close to US$ 82 billion.

Be that as it may, post acquisition Actavis would be in a position to offer all its customers in all the markets of the world a rainbow of products from patented to generics, carving out a critical strategic advantage for itself in the global pharmaceutical market.

Impact in India:

The question now boils down to what would be the impact of the just born Goliath on the domestic pharmaceutical industry in India.

Differentiated generic business:

The generic drugs market is usually classified as simple generics, super-generics and biosimilars. To differentiate, by adding value in the generic medicines, many domestic players are gradually entering into the ‘Super Generic’ and ‘biosimilar’ category of drugs. For example, Dr Reddy’s Laboratories has reportedly chosen to go for a difficult to copy drug formulation with its blood-thinner Fondaparinux. Sun Pharma, on the other hand, is focusing on innovative delivery platforms for its ophthalmic drugs and oral contraceptives. Cadila is looking at newer drug delivery modes for its painkiller Diclofenac. So is Lupin in other areas. In the biosimilar arena, Biocon has already developed Trastuzumab formulation of Roche. Moreover, the biosimilar business of Dr Reddy’s Laboratories continues with its impressive growth trend, besides many other Indian players in the same fray.

Simultaneously, India is improving its effectiveness in ‘Contract Research and Manufacturing Services (CRAMS) space. As we have recently witnessed in India the alliances between Merck & Co and Cipla and earlier with Sun Pharma. Even prior to that, collaborative agreements of Pfizer with Aurobindo Pharma; GSK with Dr Reddy’s Laboratories; Abbott India with Cadila and many more, would vindicate this point.

Merck Serono of Germany also announced a partnership to co-develop a portfolio of biosimilar compounds in oncology, primarily focused on monoclonal antibodies (MAbs) with Dr. Reddy’s Laboratories. The partnership covers co-development, manufacturing and commercialization of the compounds around the globe, with some specific country exceptions. Mylan has also signed similar agreement with Biocon.

Glenmark Pharma has chosen yet another route, by entering into collaboration with Forest Laboratories (now Actavis) in 2013, for the development of a novel mPGES-1 inhibitor for chronic inflammatory conditions, including pain management.

Advantage India, provided…

Global generic drugs market would get its next booster dose with reportedly around 46 drugs going off patent opening a market of another US$ 66 billion from monopolistic to intense generic competition in 2015.

Details of ANDA status from the US-FDA source, as I indicated in my earlier blog post, probably indicate that several Indian players have already started moving in that direction at a brisk pace, keeping their eyes well fixed on the crystal ball. Over 30 percent of Abbreviated New Drug Applications (ANDAs) and around half of the total Drug Master Filings (DMF) now come from the Indian Companies. In 2013 alone, the US-FDA granted 154 ANDAs and 38 tentative ANDAs to the Indian companies.

Despite all these, a serious apprehension does creep in, which finds its root in much-publicized fraudulent behavior of a few large Indian drug manufacturers, seriously compromising with the cGMP standards of some high profile global drug regulators. This challenge has to be overcome, sooner, to reap rich harvest out of the emerging global opportunities in the space of generic drugs.

Conclusion: 

Geographically, North America is the largest consumer of generic drugs followed by Europe and Japan. However, the highest growth of the generic drugs market is observed in the Asia-Pacific region. Besides Actavis, some of the major generic drugs manufacturers of the world are Mylan, Apotex, Hospira, Par Pharmaceutical., Sandoz International and Teva Pharmaceutical.

From India, Ranbaxy Laboratories (before the recent fiasco), Dr. Reddy’s Laboratories, Lupin and Sun Pharma, besides many others, are competing quite well in the global generic drugs market with success.

Though Actavis has its manufacturing operations in India with its registered office located in Mumbai, the company is not yet engaged in serious local marketing operations in the country. In 2006 as Watson Pharma Pvt Ltd., the company acquired Sekhsaria Chemicals in a move to push forward its generic drug agenda globally. In 2005, it acquired a manufacturing facility in Goa from Dr. Reddy’s Laboratories to produce solid dosage generic drugs for the US market.

Taking all these into considerations, if much deliberated cGMP issues with the foreign drug regulators are resolved sooner, Actavis is not expected to make any major difference for Indian pharma players either in the domestic market or for that matter globally, any time soon.

Thus Indian pharma players are unlikely to be adversely impacted with the emergence of this new potential Goliath in the global pharmaceutical landscape.

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.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.