Paying For The Best Health Outcomes At The Lowest Possible Cost

“Bayer CEO Dr. Marijn Dekkers is happy to have fair Outcomes-Based Pricing”, reported ‘PharmaTimes’ on December 3, 2014.

Dr. Dekkers was quoted saying, “It is okay to be tested on that in the process of price-setting, that is fine, we should only be paid for the value we bring”. However, at the same time he also reminded, “When we have a new drug that is significantly better than the previous drug but the previous drug just went generic, we are compared to the 20% price, not the 100% price”.

I reckon, the above statement of the Bayer CEO sounds quite amazing, if not bizarre, especially considering the legality in the prevailing global pharma patent regime.  Thus, any discontentment in this area, howsoever intense these are, would unlikely to be able to attract any unbiased favorable ear, across the world.

Another aspect of the aggressive patented drug pricing trend, I deliberated in one of my earlier blog posts titled, “An Aggressive New Drug Pricing Trend: What It Means To India?” of October 27, 2014.

What is it really?

As many would know, another common terminology of Outcome-Based Pricing (OBP) is Value-Based-Pricing (VBP). This approach for pricing is basically intended to offering the best value for the money spent in healthcare. It is ‘the costs and consequences of one treatment compared with the costs and consequences of alternative treatments’. For pharmaceutical players, VBP/OBP would mean not charging more than the actual real value of the product offerings.

As we shall find below, this concept is gaining ground now in the developed markets of the world, prompting the pharmaceutical companies generate requisite ‘health outcomes’ data using similar or equivalent products. Cost of incremental value that a product will deliver is of key significance. Some independent organizations such as, the ‘National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE)’in the United Kingdom (UK) has taken a leading role in this area.

An evolving scenario:

It would be worthwhile to note that over a period of time, while pricing new pharma products, manufacturers have been traditionally considering the costs of all inputs of various kinds incurred to bring these drugs into the market and thereafter adding hefty mark-ups on those medicines in a non-transparent manner to arrive at the market price.

This absolutely opaque process of patented drugs pricing is increasingly making the stakeholders, such as patients’ groups, payors, including the governments and insurers much concerned about the differential value offerings of these high priced new drugs over the existing ones for commensurate improvement in the actual health outcomes for the patients.

The relevance:

In the past decade, there has been a clear trend in the price negotiation of new and complex pharma based on health outcomes models as the pharma players are coming under increasing pressure from the payors/patients to improve the treatment cost-effectiveness.

In an article published in the Harvard Business Review of October 2013, Michael Porter and Thomas Lee had cautioned, “ In healthcare, the days of business as usual are over…it is time for a fundamentally new strategy. At its core is maximizing value for patients: that is, achieving the best outcomes at the lowest cost.”

They elucidated the relevance of value based pricing, supporting very strongly the idea of paying for “value” in healthcare.

Thus, if this trend were not checked, the healthcare spending would keep going up, as it is happening today globally, impacting access of these drugs to patients significantly due to spiraling cost pressure.

 A recent vindication:

‘Gallup’ in an articles titled, “Cost Still a Barrier Between Americans and Medical Care” published in December 5, 2014, has reported that in U.S., 33% of Americans have put off medical treatment because of cost. Interestingly, more of them put off treatment for serious conditions than non-serious and more with private insurance had put off treatment in 2014 than 2013.

Thus, to address this issue, as we shall see below, various governments either have or in the process of developing regulatory policies to rationalize new drug prices based on the Outcome/Value-Based Pricing (OBP/VBP) Models of different kinds.

In this backdrop, Bayer CEO’s acceptance of OBP/VBP is indeed a welcoming development. This process is undoubtedly one of the most reasonable ways to arrive at a patented drug price.

For a large majority of stakeholders, treatment outcomes and differential value offerings of new medicines are the most critical factors to monitor the value pathway of patients’ medical care, irrespective of types of illnesses.

The move has already commenced: 

Deloitte Center for Health Solutions in a study on Value-Based Pricing for

Pharmaceuticals, has highlighted that unlike the United States, many countries, where the government plays a decisive role in pricing and price negotiations of pharmaceuticals, have focused on reducing costs through value-based pricing agreements.

The article gives examples of Denmark, where Bayer entered into a “no cure, no pay” initiative on Levitra (vardenafil) for erectile dysfunction in 2005.  Patients not satisfied with the treatment were eligible for a refund. Similarly, in 2007, after the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) of the United Kingdom (UK) initially concluded that Velcade (bortezomib) was too expensive as compared to its estimated benefits to the population, Johnson & Johnson offered to forgo charges for patients who did not have an adequate medication response.

Further, according to the Burrill Report of October 2013, as part of an effort to regain market share for its statin Zocor, which had been losing ground to then Warner Lambert’s Lipitor, Merck had reportedly offered an out of box proposition to consumers and insurers in 1998. Merck’s “Get to Goal” guarantee offered refunds to any takers who failed to reach target cholesterol levels set by their doctors within six months of using Zocor and adjusting their diet.

Could serve the purpose of global pharma too:

The above Burrill Report also states, “The performance-based pricing also serves a simpler purpose for drug makers. It allows them to provide discounts that may be necessary to establish acceptable value in one market without affecting the price for a drug in other markets around the world as a number of payers peg the price they will pay for a drug to what price a specific country may negotiate with the drug maker.”

Following this trend it appears that like Dr. Dekkers, other head honchos of global pharma majors would ultimately be left with no option but to willy-nilly toe this line in most of the countries across the world for their patented products.

This would be necessitated due to increasing product-pricing pressure based on quantification of differential benefits of the new medicines over already existing ones, as would be reflected in the analysis of intensive cost-effectiveness data.

Defining a measure of cost-effectiveness:

One of the several other methods to measure the cost-effectiveness of a new drug, as reported in a case study published by ‘2020 Public Services Trust at the RSA’, is as under:

“The efficiency of new products can be captured through incremental cost-effectiveness ratios (ICER). These are usually based on quality-adjusted life-years (QALY), which are a measure of how many extra months or years of reasonable quality life a patient might gain as a result of treatment, based on average life expectancy. Life expectancy is usually extrapolated from the results of clinical trials whilst the quality adjustment is based on patients’ experiential response to the level of pain, mobility and general mood which are usually expressed as a weighted utility value of between 0 and 1. The final calculation of the ratio is based on the difference in the cost to QALY ratio between the new drug and the standard available treatment. However, to make sense of the ICERs it has been necessary to establish thresholds beyond which drugs are no longer deemed cost-effective.”

As the above case study highlights, “NICE had established a notional upper limit of £20-30,000 per QALY above which a drug will generally not be recommended, although in exceptional circumstances this can be increased as was the case for beta-interferon, where it was raised to £36,000.”

The Indian perspective:

In developing countries such as India, expenditure towards medicines is considered as an investment made by patients to improve their health and productivity at work. Maximizing benefits from such spending will require avoidance of those medicines, which will not be effective together with the use of lowest cost option with comparable value and ‘health outcomes’.

For this reason, as stated above, many countries have started engaging the regulatory authorities to come out with head to head clinical comparison of similar or equivalent drugs keeping ultimate ‘health outcomes’ of patients in mind.

A day may come in India too, when the regulatory authorities will concentrate on ‘outcomes/value-based’ pricing models, both for patented and high price branded generics, where low priced equivalents are available.

However, at this stage it appears, this would take some more time. Till then for ‘health outcomes’ based medical prescriptions, working out ‘Standard Treatment Guidelines (STG)’, especially for those diseases, which are most prevalent in India, should assume high importance.

Standard Treatment Guidelines (STG):

STG is usually defined as systematically developed statements designed to assist practitioners and patients in making decisions about appropriate cost-effective treatment in specific disease areas.

For each disease area, the treatment should include “the name, dosage form, strength, average dose (pediatric and adult), number of doses per day, and number of days of treatment.” STG also includes specific referral criteria from a lower to a higher level of the diagnostic and treatment requirements.

In India, the medical experts have already developed STGs for some disease areas. However, formulation of STGs covering all major disease areas and, more importantly, their effective implementation would ensure cost-effective healthcare benefits to a vast majority of population.

The Ministry of health of the respective states of India should encourage the medical professionals/institutions to lay more emphasis on ‘health-outcomes/value based’ prescription of medicines, ensuring more cost effective treatment for their patients.


The medical practitioners in their part should ideally volunteer to avoid prescribing expensive drugs offering no significant improvement in ‘health outcomes’, against the cheaper equivalents. The Government should initially encourage it through ‘self-regulation’ and if it does not work, stringent regulatory measures must be strictly enforced, within a reasonable time frame.

Be that as it may, it clearly emerges today that in the healthcare arena, effective implementation of ‘Outcomes/Value-Based-Pricing-Models’ would ensure paying for the best health outcomes at the lowest possible cost, especially for those who deserve it the most, not just in India, but across the world 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.


Contract Research – a rapidly evolving business opportunity in India: Is the Pharmaceutical Industry making the best use of it?

A quick perspective of the ‘new-era’ pharmaceutical R&D in India:
Since 1970 up until 2005, Indian pharmaceutical industry used to be considered as the industry of ‘reverse engineering’ and that too with an underlying disparaging tone… and also as the industry of ‘copycat’ medicines’.

However, it will be absolutely unfair on my part to comment that only domestic Indian pharmaceutical companies launched ‘copycat’ versions of patented products in India and no multinational companies (MNCs) resorted to this practice, during this period.

Long before Indian Product Patent regime was put in place, in January 1, 2005, around 1998/99 Dr. Reddy’s Laboratories (DRL) entered into a bilateral agreement with Novo Nordisk and Ranbaxy with Bayer of Germany to out-license two New Chemical Entities (NCEs) and a New Drug Delivery System (NDDS), respectively for further development.

Opened the new vistas of opportunities:

These research initiatives opened the new vistas of opportunities for the Indian pharmaceutical industry in terms of R&D, in the pharmaceutical science. The above new developments also brought in a sense of determination within the research oriented domestic pharmaceutical players to enter into the big ticket game of the global pharmaceutical industry called ‘product discovery research’.

The jubilation of the industry having demonstrated its initial capability of taking a leap into forthcoming new paradigm of that time, received a set back momentarily when Novo Nordisk terminated the development of both the NCEs of DRL, after a couple of years, because of scientific reasons. However, DRL continued to move on to its chosen path, undeterred by the initial set back.

Need to focus on R&D and create world class ‘Intellectual Properties’:

In a letter addressed to the shareholders of DRL in one of its recent annual reports, the founder and the chairman of the company Dr. Anji Reddy expressed his following vision:

“Excelling in the basic business operations will be necessary, but not sufficient. To maintain a long-term presence in the global pharmaceuticals markets and to grow profitably will require companies to be even more focused on R&D and creation of successful IPR’s [intellectual property rights].”

After India signed the World Trade Organization (WTO) agreement, Indian pharmaceutical companies were quick to make out that the ball game of doing pharmaceutical business in the new IPR regime will be quite different. Having pharmaceutical product patents will indeed be important in future, for the domestic R&D based pharmaceutical companies.

The Past versus Present R&D models in India:

Domestic research based pharmaceutical companies did realize in the early days that a radical shift in their focus from ‘process research’ to ‘product discovery research’ may not be prudent or practical either.

Some of these companies initiated step-wise approach from mid 90’s to meet the challenge of change, come year 2005. During the transition period of 10 years as given by the WTO to India from 1995 to 2005, some domestic companies wanted to make full use of their past R&D model.

The past model:

Before the product patent regime, Indian pharmaceutical companies used to manufacture and market generic equivalents of the patented drugs at a fraction of the price of the originators, with non-infringing process technology in the Indian domestic market and also for export to the other non-regulated markets. During the WTO transition period of 10 years, they increased the pace of utilization of this model and launched as many ‘copycat’ versions of the new products as possible to boost up their sales and profit.

The present model for regulated markets:

Following two strategies are followed:

1. Indian companies doing generic business in the regulated markets like the USA submit
“Abbreviated New Drug Application” (ANDA) to the drug regulator for approvals of drugs,
which will go off patent within the next few years, so that the generic products could be launched
immediately after patent expiry.

2. Many other companies follow the second avenue, simultaneously, which is though risky but very
remunerative. In this case, the generic market entry takes place by challenging the patents of the

It is believed that this model is being used by the Indian pharmaceutical companies, primarily to raise financial resources to get more engaged in their drug discovery initiatives or to generate wherewithal for collaborative or contract research initiatives.

For short term business growth and to raise fund for discovery research, their non-infringing process research initiatives have been proved to be quite useful. These R&D based Indian pharmaceutical companies; seem to understand very well that discovery of NCEs/NMEs or getting involved in this process will ultimately be ‘the name of the game’ to fuel longer term business growth of their respective organizations.

Contract Research (CR) in India:

Contract research is another business model within the overall R&D space, where a significant part of the investments come from the collaborators. CR business model currently explore the following two key options:

Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) for the discovery will go to the global collabolator and the
Indian CR organization will get an upfront or milestone payments.

 Along with funding support to the CR organization, IPR is shared by both the companies
depending on the terms of agreement.

There could be many other terms/clauses in such CR agreements, which are not within the scope of this discussion.

Types of Contract Research (CR):

Frost & Sullivan in one of their studies on Indian R&D opportunities indicated following three models of contract research:

1. Joint research: Here two or more collaborators will work jointly

2. Collaborative research: In this type of research, scientists of different disciplines work together on a project e.g. Ranbaxy has recently entered into a collaborative research program with GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) or collaboration of Ranbaxy to develop an anti-malarial NCE Rbx 11160 with Medicines for Malaria Venture (MMV), Geneva.

3. Complete outsourcing: When an altogether different research organization is assigned a research project by another organization. Some Indian research based pharmaceutical companies have already got engaged in these types contract research activities. The market of contract research is expected to grow much faster in the near future.

India – an attractive contract research destination:

A global survey done by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) couple of years ago on the preferred centres for overseas contract research, published as follows:

• 39% preference for China

• 28% preference for India

Attractiveness as preferred contract research center was based on the following criteria:

• A place where companies can tap into existing networks of scientific and technical expertise

• Has good links to academic research facilities

• Provides an environment where innovation is supported and easy to commercialize.

Many global pharmaceutical companies believe that China scores over India on the third point, as mentioned above.

Indian pharmaceutical companies have commenced targeting contract research opportunities:

Research based Indian pharmaceutical companies companies like, Piramal Healthcare, Ranbaxy, DRL, Zydus Cadilla, Glenmark etc are now actively targeting international companies for contract research in custom synthesis, medicinal chemistry and clinical studies.

A medium-sized pharma company Shasun Chemicals and Drugs has been reported to have defined its business as an “integrated research and manufacturing solutions provider”. Similarly Divi’s Laboratories, a pharmaceutical company of similar size has collaborated with global multinational companies for both custom synthesis and contract research projects.

Some international CROs, like Quintiles have its establishments in Ahmedabad, Bangalore and Mumbai with great expectations and a robust business model.

New contract research opportunities in Biopharmaceuticals:

Besides pure pharmaceutical companies, an emerging opportunity is seen within the biotech companies in India, which are mostly engaged in a contract model. Novartis has inked a three year deal with Synergene (Biocon) for various research projects primarily in the early stages of development in cardiovascular and oncology therapy areas.

Likewise, Reliance Life Sciences are involved in chemistry, biology and contract clinical research activities.

Another research process outsourcing company, Avesthagen is engaged in collaborative research in metabolics, proteomics, genomics and sequencing. The company shares the IPR with the collaborators.

Jubilant Biosys of India, which has already partnered in a drug development deal with Eli Lilly has recently entered into another research and development deal with AstraZeneca, estimated to be worth up to US$220 million. This research collaboration will be funded by AstraZeneca for five years and they will own the patent of any neuroscience molecule that will come out of this collaborative agreement.

Contract research – a lucrative business model:

A UBS Warburg study indicated that around 20% to 25% of R&D investments in the US go towards contract research. This percentage is expected to increase as the pressure to contain R&D expenses keeps mounting, especially in the US and EU.

Currently the cost of bringing an NCE/NME to market from its R&D stage is estimated to be around US$ 1.7 billion. Across the world efforts are being generated to bring down these mounting expenses towards R&D.

Many experts believe that cost of innovation in India will be almost half of what it will be in the US and EU. A report from Zinnov Management Consulting forecasts that towards outsourcing by the global pharmaceutical companies, India has the potential to earn about US$2.5 billion by 2012.


Currently, within CR space India is globally considered as a more mature venue for chemistry related drug-discovery activities than China. However, in biotech space China is ahead of India. Probably, because of this reason, companies like, Divi’s Laboratories, Avesthagen, Ranbaxy, Synergene, Jubilant Biosys, Reliance Life Science, DRL, Zydus Cadilla, Glenmark and Piramal Healthcare could enter into long-term collaborative arrangements with Multinational Companies (MNC)to discover and develop New Chemical Entities (NCEs).

As I said earlier quoting Korn/Ferry that in the CR space China’s infrastructure is better than India, primarily due to firm commitment of the Chinese government to derive maximum benefits of the globalization process in the country.

Prudent policy reforms and other measures as expected from the new UPA Government will hopefully help bridging the gap between the Chinese and Indian pharmaceutical industry in the space of overall CR business including biotechnology, as Indian R&D based pharmaceutical companies will start realizing and encashing the potential of this important business model.

By Tapan 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.