The world’s largest spender on research to create new drugs, Pfizer Inc., plans to develop a range of India-specific drugs and also conduct trials here for its new kidney cancer drug Sutent to explore its usage for the treatment of other forms of cancer.
Sutent was launched in India in January and in February a small study in the US reported a disproportionately high number of heart failures among its users. An executive at Pfizer’s Indian arm, who asked not to be identified as he is not authorized to speak to the media, said the firm was submitting data on the usage of the drug and its effects to India’s drug regulator Drug Controller General of India. He added there have been no adverse reactions reported here. Mint couldn’t immediately verify this claim.
The initiative is part of Pfizer’s Asia-centric development programme and a growing focus on emerging markets.
Michael Berelowitz, head of worldwide development and senior V-P at Pfizer
It will focus on diseases such as cancer, diabetes, neurological disorders and inflammation, with special emphasis on the regional characteristics of the ailments. It will also work on certain vaccines and other unmet medical needs, said Michael Berelowitz, Pfizer’s senior vice-president (global medical) and head of worldwide development.
Pfizer also plans to conduct trials for Sutent for the treatment of lung, breast and cervical cancers as well.
Currently, Pfizer is conducting about 45 global trials in India as part of its international research and development (R&D) programme. “The India-specific drug developments, on which we will have more clarity on the disease segments in the next two-three months, will be in addition to this set of trials,” said Jorge Puente, who leads the Asia project in the capacity of Pfizer’s V-P of medical and regulatory affairs, Japan and Asia.
Pfizer’s region-specific R&D team in Asia has about 100 people now, Puente said. “The R&D teams in the regional arms are the extended line of the Asia project. The R&D team at Pfizer India will be getting more work now thanks to the country-specific drug development programme.”
Pfizer had, in 2004, proposed an Asia-centric medical and regulatory affairs division to focus on drug development mainly in China, South Korea, India and other emerging markets. The activities were to include research on regional disease profile, clinical trials, safety analysis and regulatory compliances.
Under the Asia initiative, Pfizer has already initiated R&D for a type of cancer found in the Chinese community.
This initiative marks a change from Pfizer’s earlier research strategy. The company began increasing its focus on emerging markets following declining revenues from the US and West European markets. “It is also part of a transformation that the company is making now from a US-centric entity to true global entity,” said Berelowitz.
As reported by Mint in December, Pfizer has already moved from its traditional fully in-house managed R&D culture to a partnership model. Berelowitz said: “The company has signed much more partnership deals in R&D globally in the last one year than what it had in the past.”