Merck KGaA focuses on diabetes in India, lines up five products

Merck KGaA focuses on diabetes in India, lines up five products

Mumbai: Merck KGaA’s Indian arm is aggressively tapping the growing diabetes market in India even as the German drug giant discontinued diabetes as a key portfolio in its global pharma business for the future and almost stopped research activities in this area.

Merck Ltd, the local outfit, will launch at least five anti-diabetes products, one-third of its total product launches in a year, in the domestic market this fiscal, according to managing director Marek Dziki.

“All these new products will be from our in-house research locally, and we will remain strongly focused in this segment," he said on Monday.

The global parent, after a business review, had in 2007 announced that it was considering not investing further into basic diabetes research, and investigating partnerships for its existing diabetes research and development projects.

The global decision was to stop further investments in diabetes drug research, based on a business strategy review which indicated other potentially good areas for Merck to focus on, Dziki added.

Merck KGaA, a strong player in the world diabetes market with its original research drug metformin, a widely prescribed anti-diabetic medicine, had at least two diabetes drug candidates in its research pipeline at the time of the announcement.

It also had in-licensed a new discovery molecule in the diabetes area from India’s Glenmark Pharmaceuticals Ltd.

Following the decision to pull out from this segment, this drug candidate was returned to the Indian company.

Merck India sells at least four key products in this segment.

“Merck is a large player in the vitamin segment at present, and about 58% of its products are currently under price control. Though late, a strong diabetes focus now will help the company grow its profitability," said Ranjit Kapadia, senior vice-president (institutional research, pharma), at brokerage HDFC Securities Ltd.

India is one of the large anti-diabetes markets in the world with a significantly large patient population.

Merck had on Monday opened its first customised application centre for catering to its industry clients in the specialty and laboratory chemicals business.

According to Prantik Mukherjee, who heads the group’s chemicals business in India, the company now plans to expand its global business model in the industry chemicals segment in India too with this new technology centre.

With the new business model, it offers consultancy and customised product development solutions to Indian companies in the pharma, biotech, cosmetics, automobile and many other chemistry oriented industry segments.

The centre is the first such facility set up in India under Merck-Millipore after worldwide integration of Millipore Corp., a large lifesciences speciality chemicals company, into Merck.

The German group acquired Millipore in 2010 in a $7.2 billion global deal.

Dziki said the Indian company will continue investing in research and development, mainly in generics, as well as people expansion to grow in the local market, one of the most growing pharma geographies in the world. The company has about 3,000 people in the Indian operation.

Several global pharma companies are looking to grow in the Indian market that expanded between 18% and 20% in 2010.

While a significantly large population and progressing economy are the key attractions for global drug makers in India, a saturated growth and less number of high value and patent protected products for launch in the US and European markets are the other compelling factors that drive them into this market.

Merck’s share value grew about 25% during 2010, higher than the nearly 17% rise in Sensex, the Bombay Stock Exchange’s benchmark equity index, but it did not match the growth of the exchange’s healthcare index, which rose about 34% during the year.

Its stock rose 2.37% on Tuesday to close at Rs747 a unit on Bombay Stock Exchange.