Mounting pressure on the P&L account, as the products go off patent:
Patented new products are the prime growth driver of the research based pharmaceutical companies of the world. Since last few years, because of various reasons, the number of launch of such products has been greatly reduced. To add fuel to the fire, 2010-12 will witness patent expiries of many blockbuster drugs, depleting the growth potential of the most of the research based pharmaceutical companies.
The existing model of growth engine needs a relook:
The blockbuster model of growth engine of the innovator companies effectively relies on a limited number of ‘winning horses’ to achieve the business goal and meeting the Wall Street expectations. In 2007, depleting pipeline of the blockbuster drugs hit a new low in the developed markets of the world. It is estimated that around U.S. $ 140 billion of annual turnover from blockbuster drugs will get almost shaves off due to patent expiry by the year 2016. IMS reports that in 2010 more than U.S. $ 30 billion will be adversely impacted because of patent expiry. Another set of blockbuster drugs with similar value turnover will go off patent the year after i.e. 2011. It will not be out of context to mention, that last year around U.S. $ 27 billion worth of patented drugs had gone off-patent.
Decline in R&D productivity is not related to investments:
The decline in R&D productivity has not been due to lack of investments. It has been reported that between 1993-2004, R&D expenditure by the pharmaceutical industry rose from U.S.$ 16 billion to around U.S.$ 40 billion. However, during the same period the number of applications for New Chemical Entities (NCEs) filed annually to the U.S. FDA grew by just 7%.
Total global expenditure for pharmaceutical R&D was reported to have reached U.S. $ 70 billion in 2007 and is expected to be around U.S. 90 billion in year 2010. 75% of this expenditure was incurred by the U.S alone. It is interesting to note that only 22 NMEs received marketing approval by the US FDA during this period against 53 in 1996, when R&D expenditure was almost less than half of what was incurred in 2007 towards R&D.
Be that as it may, the pressure on the P&L (Profit and Loss) accounts of these companies is indeed mounting.
The silver linings:
However, there seem to be following two silver linings in the present scenario, as reported by IMS:
1. Number of Phase I and Phase II drugs in the pipeline is increasing.
2. R&D applications for clinical trials in the U.S. rose by 11.6% to a record high of 662 last year.
Significant growth of generic pharmaceuticals is expected in near future, far surpassing the patented products growth:
Patent expiry of so many blockbusters during this period will fuel the growth of generic pharmaceutical business, especially in the large developed markets of the world. The market exclusivity for 180 days being given to the first applicant with a paragraph 4 certification in the U.S. is, indeed, a very strong incentive, especially for the generic companies of India.
Healthcare reform of March/April 2010 in the USA is expected to give a further boost to this trend.
Pressure on traditional Marketing strategies:
The marketing expenditure for pharmaceutical of the global pharmaceutical companies as reported by Scrip is U.S. $ 57.5 billion. However, an industry association reported that research based pharmaceutical companies in the U.S. spent $ 29.4 billion on R&D and $ 27.7 billion on promotional activities.
New Product Differentiation could be a big issue:
Products in R&D pipeline could face problems of ‘differentiation’ in terms of value offering to the patients, once they are launched. This issue is expected to surface especially with products in the oncology disease area. IMS Health reports that about 55 oncology projects are now in Phase III and 8 in the pre-registration stage. Thus about 50 new oncology products are expected to hit the market by end 2010. Many experts anticipate that there may not be significant brand differentiation between the brands of the ‘same basket’, leading to cut-throat competition and further pressure on expenditure towards marketing of brands.
The changing business strategy of global pharmaceutical companies during this trying time:
In this trying time, the global pharmaceutical companies are resorting to an interesting strategy, combing both old and the new ones. I shall touch upon the following seven strategies:
1. Mergers and Acquisitions (M&A):
Mega M&A strategies are still being actively followed by some large Pharmaceutical companies mainly to enrich R&D pipeline and achieve both revenue and cost synergies.
However, some of these large global companies have started realizing that ‘powerhouses’ created through past mega mergers and acquisitions have now become too large to manage effectively for various reasons. Mismatch between two different organization cultures also throws a great challenge to obtain desired output, many a times. Moreover, the merged R&D set up could become too large to manage, impacting the R&D productivity very adversely.
2. Extension of the Product Life Cycle and Effective Product Life Cycle Management:
Many global pharmaceutical companies are now engaged in ‘product life cycle management’ of their existing products by extending the ‘product life cycle’, effectively. In that process they are trying to maximize the brand value of these products in the international markets. For example, AstraZeneca has developed once daily treatment with their anti-psychotic drug Seroquel XR. This extended-release formulation of the same drug will help patients avoid 5 to 7-day titration required with the immediate-release version.
Towards similar initiative, Pfizer has also recently set up a dedicated “Established Product Business Unit” within worldwide pharmaceutical operations, to hasten business growth in the international markets.
3. OTC Switch:
Prescription to ‘Over the Counter’ (OTC) switch is another business strategy that many innovator companies are now imbibing, at a much larger scale.
This strategy is helping many global pharmaceutical companies, especially in the Europe and the U.S to expand the indication of the drugs and thereby widening the patients base.
Recent prescription to OTC switches will include products like, Losec (AstraZeneca), Xenical (Roche), Zocor (Merck), etc.
4. Emerging of Preventive Therapy, like Vaccines:
Many large global companies, like GSK, Sanofi Aventis and Merck are getting attracted by the emerging opportunities in the fast developing vaccines market. This trend has been triggered primarily by heightened awareness and greater focus on preventive medicines almost all over the world. It is estimated that in 2011, the vaccines market will grow from U.S.$ 13 billion to U.S.$ 30 billion registering a growth of 18% each year during this period. PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) estimates vaccine market to be U.S. $ 42 billion by year 2015 based on data of 245 pure vaccines and 11 combination vaccines currently under clinical development. It is interesting to note that 90 of these are therapeutic vaccines for cancer.
5. Entry into highly contentious market of Biosimilar drugs:
The Generic Pharmaceutical Association (GPhA) has estimated that it is possible to save US$ 10 billion – 108 billion over a period of 10 years with biosimilars in the top 12 categories of biological drugs. Some of these biological are already off patent and for others the patents will expire shortly.
Only a few biosimilar drugs have reached the global markets as on date because of their regulatory restrictions in most of the developed markets of the world. Even those biosimilar drugs, which have since been launched in Europe like, human growth hormone (HGH) Somatropin and Epoetin alfa for anemia, are yet to make a mark in the market place.
IMS Health reports that Omnitrope (somatropin) of Sandoz, the first biosimilar drug launched in the developed world, has registered less than 1% of the U.S. $ 831 million HGH market in Europe. Moreover, the launch of 3 more biosimilar versions of epoetin alfa in 2007, made almost negligible impact in the market. Such a low acceptance of biosimilars in the western world, so far, could well be due to lingering safety concern of the medical profession with such types of drugs.
Currently, Japan and USA are working on formal guidelines for biosimilar drugs, whereas Health Canada has already issued draft regulatory guidelines for their approval in Canada.
In April 2010, Reliance Life Science has already announced its intent to enter into the Biosimilar market of the EU in not too distant future.
6. Entry into Generic Markets:
Some large global pharmaceutical companies have already made a firm commitment to the generics market. Novartis paved the way for other innovator companies to follow this uncharted frontier, as a global business strategy. Last year the generic business of Novartis (under Sandoz) recorded 19% of their overall net sales, with turnover from generics registering U.S$ 7.2 billion growing at 20%.
Keen business interest of Sanofi Aventis to acquire Zentiva, the generic pharmaceutical company of Czechoslovakia; it’s very recent acquisition of the generic pharmaceutical company Laboratorios Kendrick of Mexico and Shantha Biotech in India and acquisition of Ranbaxy Laboratories of India by Daiichi Sankyo, will vindicate this point.
Pfizer has also maintained its generics presence with Greenstone in the U.S. and is using the company to launch generic versions of its own off patent products such as Diflucan (fluconazole) and Neurontin (gabapentin).
7. Collaboration with the Indian Companies:
Another emerging trend is the collaboration of MNCs with the Indian pharmaceutical companies to market generics in the global market, like, Pfizer with Aurobindo and Claris, GSK with Dr. Reddy’s Laboratories (DRL), Astra Zeneca with Torrent. I guess that similar trend will continue, in future, as well.
Another ‘new pharmaceutical sales and marketing model’ is gradually emerging in the global markets. This model emphasizes partnership by bundling medicines with services. The key success factor, in this model, will depend on which company will offer better value with an integrated mix of medicines with services. PwC indicates that in this ‘new pharmaceutical marketing model’, besides required medicines, the expertise of a company to effectively deliver some key services like, patient monitoring and disease management could well be the cutting edge for future success.
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.