Bristol-Myers Squibb to launch niche, patented products in India

Written by MG Arun | Mumbai | Updated: Feb 9 2012, 06:09am hrs
In a bid to gain from the emerging market group, Bristol-Myers Squibb India (BMS) plans to launch patented medicines for diabetes, cancer and heart disease, including biological drugs and step up its revenues from India. Biological drugs are those drugs made of human or animal proteins unlike the traditional chemical process.

India is a part of the emerging market group and also a key market for BMS. The group was set up a few years ago to focus on markets of India, China, Brazil, Russia and Turkey, said Pheroze Khan, the managing director of the company. Khan joined BMS in 1995 and later led the company in Greece and Cyprus before taking up the Indian role in August 2011.

Our strategy has been to bring more drugs in India, which is now acknowledged as one of the best in the global pharma industry, Khan said.

BMS, subsidiary of the American drugs maker Bristol-Myers Squibb Company, has been in India since 2004 but has launched only 11 products. R&D products take a lot of time, since we have to go through the development process, clinical trials and then the approvals in India, said Khan. Very few products make it to the market. The process is also very expensive, he added. Companies spend roughly $1 billion for every molecule before they are launched in the market.

Khan said drug revenues in India grows 30% every year, largely due to high-value niche products. Its outsourcing venture in association with Accenture, called the BMS & Accenture Pharmacovigilance Centre in Chennai, processes and monitors safety data of drugs. BMCs strategy is not like those of Roche Indias or Abbott Laboratories, who focus on generic drugs. The strategy helped BMS gain big revenues even from a few products, a consultant from a global consulting firm said on condition of anonymity.

The $21.2-billion New York-based company is planning to bring in at least three products to the Indian market over the next two years. We have launched one biological product already in India for rheumatoid arthritis and have plans to launch more, said Khan. The company launched a biological drug in Europe last year for melanoma, a type of skin cancer. The company is likely to launch it in India, too. Melanoma is an area where people had no option for treatment, said Khan. It was the first drug for that kind of cancer.

The company also plans to launch biological drug in the solid organ transplant area. Many people go for kidney transplants with limited success, as the kidney function deteriorates over years. We have a biology product which we would like to bring to India. It is in the process of registration, said Khan. The company also plans to launch a drug for stroke prevention. This is a small (chemical) molecule. We are looking to launch it in the next few quarters, he added.

Analysts are bullish on the growth in the Indian pharma market, as lifestyle diseases continue to rise. Overall, growth of the sector would be positively affected by the growth in domestic market, largely driven by economic growth, greater marketing in semi-urban and rural areas, a rapid increase in chronic, age-related disorders, rapid expansion of private hospitals and increased government spending on improvements in healthcare infra, Fitch Ratings had said in a report.

Multinational pharma companies are keen to launch innovative products in India, but have been demanding more clarity on Indias patent laws.

The pharmaceutical industry is at the cusp of a great opportunity, said Ranjit Shahani, the vice-chairman and managing director of Novartis India, an arm of the Swiss drug major, in an earlier interview with FE. It can choose to be the pharmacy of the poor by being a pure generics player or the pharmacy of the world by being a top innovator. Novartis is looking to grow its business through bolt-on acquisitions in India, Shahani said.

BMS has partnered with Bangalore-based Biocon to set up an R&D centre, called the Bristol-Myers Squibb Biocon Research and Development Centre, where a number of drug molecules in early stages are being screened. The partnership with Biocon is a unique model that we have, and is the only R&D centre outside the US that is focused on new drug discovery and development, said Khan.