Mumbai: Drug makers who have depended on developing blockbuster drugs and discovering new molecules to be competitive would have to change their focus to innovative marketing to combat a drying research pipeline and increasing competition from off-patent drugs, said Simon Friend, global pharmaceuticals and life sciences leader at consultancy PricewaterhouseCoopers.
Big pharmaceutical companies such as Pfizer Inc., Novartis AG and GlaxoSmithKline Plc have followed a strategy to invest in the research and development of new drugs to feed their market needs, driven by speciality and patent protected products.
But in the current market scenario, copy or generic drugs are making inroads into even developed markets and have started eating into the shares of these speciality companies, Friend said at a conference on Tuesday.
Recent data by drug market research company IMS Health show that the market growth of these companies have been shrinking in the last three-four years in the US and Europe, the world’s top pharmaceutical markets. The data show that the average yearly growth rate of big pharma companies has stayed in the range of 2-3% since 2006.
“It is a fact that new drugs from these companies are constantly on a decline, and the increased development cost will not allow them to take higher risk of huge investment for this in an uncertain market situation,” Friend said. “So the solution is to focus on marketing of existing brands and value-added products by demonstrating the improved performance in comparison to competition.”
Pharma companies also face difficulties in licensing meaningful technologies from public-funded research institutions and universities, Friend added.
Pharma companies will need to go beyond the medicine as a product, as the industry will be paid for the performance of the product and not just for the product, Friend said. So drug companies would have to offer medicines along with a package of care, which will be a big reform in the drug sector, he added.
Drugmakers such as Sanofi-Aventis SA and Novo Nordisk A/S have already started such initiatives.
Sanofi, as part of global initiative, started a patient counselling programme, “Sath7” through which it provides counselling to diabetes patients and doctors in India.
According to a Sanofi-Aventis India spokesperson, this programme, which is run in coordination with doctors, is staffed by 50 counsellors in the country.
“It has been one of the successful programmes our company has initiated in terms of value added service to patients along with the treatment,” she said.
Novo Nordisk also runs a patient education programme in different countries.
Pfizer and Glaxo run scientific marketing and performance value-based programmes globally.