Partnerships give critical mass for reaching out to more patients

Written by MG Arun | Updated: Jun 15 2012, 10:06am hrs
German pharma major, the 13.2-billion-euro Boehringer Ingelheim (BI) is launching diabetes drug linagliptin (Trajenta) in India as part of a unique global co-promotion alliance with Eli Lilly, the $23-billion US company. The alliance will now have two products, with humalog (Lispro), an insulin injection from Lilly, already launched in India. The idea is to tap the R4,000-crore market for diabetes in India, using a 375-strong sales team, the largest such field force on just two products. Sharad Tyagi, chairman and MD of Boehringer Ingelheim India, talks about the alliance, Indias potential despite recent pricing setbacks for MNCs and the future path for BI, in an interview with FEs MG Arun. Edited excerpts.

What do both sides bring to the table as part of this alliance

Globally, both companies have worked together in the past. By giving insulin and orals as part of the alliance, we are giving doctors more choice in treatment. We share not just the profits, but the costs too. Our aim is to be the market leader in this alliance over the next five years, with around 20% market share. We are already operating in 110 cities in India through the alliance.

Is there a plan to take the alliance beyond diabetes

The alliance is only for diabetes products now, but over the next five years we plan to put more new products developed by each company into it, taking the total basket to six products.

Are you open to such partnerships in other therapeutic segments with other companies

BI has a strong presence in neurology, cardiovascular, oncology and respiratory. We will be always open to partners, be it Indian or multinationals. BI already has a partnership with Zydus Cadilla for some of its older products. In the current scenario in India, you have to always keep evaluating partnerships as appropriate.

How confident is the company about launching patented products in India

The fact that patent laws are in place, that companies have recourse to protect themselves legally, is in itself a big step compared to the earlier days. The expectation is that, as we go along, and more technologies are realised, not just in pharmaceuticals, the government will strengthen the implementation as well. It is a learning process for the country. The bedrock of the patent system is also how you can enforce the law, and that is happening.

The new launches in India come at a time of much debate on pricing of drugs by multinationals. Are issues like the recent compulsory licensing order on the Bayer drug a concern for MNCs

For BI, India will be a strategic market. There could be uncertainties, and certain things would be work in progress, but 20 years from now, a country with more than one billion people with such demographic profile, has huge potential.

The prices of our products in India are much below those in other regions. We believe in differential pricing and patients access to medicines, and that is possible through this alliance. It allows you the critical mass to reach out to many more patients. India is so important that we will launch all our products here. The industry is in dialogue with the government on various issues, and we are hopeful of a solution.

Apart from formulations, what other areas interest you in India

We are in constant dialogue for partnerships in research. In clinical research, in the therapies we are in, we have trials going on through clinical research organisations. We are also looking at partnerships with various Indian companies for sourcing various products. We buy a lot of raw materials, intermediates, APIs for our global plants from India, through our international sourcing office.

Would you look for inorganic growth in India

BI has never done any major acquisitions, since we believe that the growth should come from in-house research and molecules. We spend 26% of our revenues into research and development every year, and every product launched is from our research and development. We will, however, be looking at brand acquisitions in the over-the-counter space.