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, India’s potential despite recent pricing setbacks for MNCs and the future path for BI, in an interview with FE’s 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