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By Jeremy Grushcow

I often hear how the upcoming loss of patent protection for current blockbusters creates an insatiable demand at pharma companies for new pipeline products from biotechs. Here’s an example from 2007. Here’s one from last week. This is not true. Upcoming loss of patent protection creates an insatiable demand for revenue, but new products are not the only source of new revenue.

Abbott’s $3.7 billion deal for a unit of India’s Piramal Healthcare last week is a perfect case in point. This deal, which follows Abbott’s license of a slew of products from Zydus Cadila, will feed the company’s new “established products division.” Abbott’s purchase of Solvay in February also built its emerging markets revenue, which now accounts for over 20% of the company’s business.

Abbott is far from alone: Sanofi is the biggest generics manufacturer in Latin America, Pfizer also has an established products division, Novartis is diversifying into eyecare and has long sold generics, Merck is into follow-on biologics and GSK tapped South Africa’s Aspen Pharma for emerging markets growth through branded generics. These alternatives look even better as payors worldwide are setting more demanding standards for reimbursement, the placebo effect is mysteriously strong, and personalized medicine makes clinical trials even more expensive.

My bottom line? Emerging markets and generics opportunities create plenty of growth, thank you very much, with a far lower risk profile than most product in-licenses or biotech acquisitions (even the option deals). As big pharma gets more comfortable with “established products” and biosimilars, biotechs are going to have to demonstrate even higher value. Plenty of companies are being built and funded with that in mind; but anyone counting on pharma’s desperation will be disappointed.

Re-posted from the Cross-Border Biotech Blog

Jeremy Grushcow  is a Foreign Legal Consultant practising corporate law at Ogilvy Renault LLP. He has a Ph.D. in Molecular Genetics and Cell Biology. His practice focuses on life science and technology companies.

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