The Cross-Border Biotech Blog

Biotechnology, Health and Business in Canada, the United States and Worldwide

Patent Cliff Will Not Save Biotech: Abbott Buys Indian Generics Company Piramal Healthcare

I often hear how the upcoming loss of patent protection for current blockbusters creates an insatiable demand at pharma companies for new pipeline products from biotechs. Here’s an example from 2007. Here’s one from last week. This is not true. Upcoming loss of patent protection creates a insatiable demand for revenue, but new products are not the only source of new revenue.

Abbott’s $3.7 billion deal for a unit of India’s Piramal Healthcare last week is a perfect case in point. This deal, which follows Abbott’s license of a slew of products from Zydus Cadila, will feed the company’s new “established products division.” Abbott’s purchase of Solvay in February also built its emerging markets revenue, which now accounts for over 20% of the company’s business.

Abbott is far from alone: Sanofi is the biggest generics manufacturer in Latin America, Pfizer also has an established products division, Novartis is diversifying into eyecare and has long sold generics, Merck is into follow-on biologics and GSK tapped South Africa’s Aspen Pharma for emerging markets growth through branded generics. These alternatives look even better as payors worldwide are setting more demanding standards for reimbursement, the placebo effect is mysteriously strong, and personalized medicine makes clinical trials even more expensive.

My bottom line? Emerging markets and generics opportunities create plenty of growth, thank you very much, with a far lower risk profile than most product in-licenses or biotech acquisitions (even the option deals). As big pharma gets more comfortable with “established products” and biosimilars, biotechs are going to have to demonstrate even higher value. Plenty of companies are being built and funded with that in mind; but anyone counting on pharma’s desperation will be disappointed.

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One response to “Patent Cliff Will Not Save Biotech: Abbott Buys Indian Generics Company Piramal Healthcare

  1. Chris Neuman May 25, 2010 at 7:26 am

    Thank you for your insights. I think you are correct. The big brand companies are all expanding in to the generic and bio-similar space. In a few cases, companies like Teva have also established a brand division. It is very interesting to see how our business evolves over time.

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