Despite the numerous dents to its reputation, Ranbaxy still marks Indias entry in the global pharma sweepstakes and is still considered to be the countrys first blue-blooded pharma flagship. The deal with Sun, though, is likely to see a sunset clause when the fineprint is laid out.
The possible phasing out of the Ranbaxy brand is, by no means, an exception. A majority of global pharma mergers too have marked a similar trend, where the market identity of the acquired has been progressively subsumed by the acquirer, including Wyeths acquisition by Pfizer and MSD (Mercks name outside the United States and Canada) buying Schering-Plough. Earlier, Pfizer had subsumed two of its other acquisition targets Warner-Lambert and Pharmacia to become the worlds largest drug maker. While the Ranbaxy brand is likely to face the axe, the consensus view is that the consumer sub-brands of Ranbaxy might be retained by Sun.
The sub-brands would be retained precisely because the end-consumer is unlikely to recall the corporate brand under which they are being offered. But to thwart the heat on Ranbaxy, Sun might have to give some sort of reassurance about the quality to the other stake-holder that are key to the pharma business doctors. In export markets such as the US and the EU, the Ranbaxy brand would certainly be a hindrance for Sun in the wake of negative rulings by the US FDA and therefore a phasing out of the sullied brand umbrella could seem the most plausible course of action.
There is yet another dimension to Suns acquisition of Ranbaxy Labs. In 2008, when Japans Daiichi Sankyo bought Ranbaxy, it was seen as a big step towards the multinationalisation of Indias largely homegrown generics-dominated pharma sector. That the Ranbaxy deal came at a time when a number of other high-profile deals happened as well US-based Abbott Labs and Hospira buying Piramal Healthcare and Orchid Chemicals respectively, Frances Sanofi-Aventis purchasing Shantha Biotechnics, American firm Mylan buying Matrix Laboratories and Germanys Fresenius Kabi buying out Dabur Pharma just buttressed this view. Ranbaxys transfer back to Indian hands should suitably quell worries of Indian pharma M&As being simply a one-way street in favour of multinationalisation.
Anil Sasi is a senior editor based in New Delhi.