AstraZeneca ($AZN) and Novo Nordisk ($NVO) both opened plants in Russia last year, assuring their spot in that emerging market where authorities are suggesting foreign drugmakers establish some kind of local production if they want to sell into the market. Now Big Pharma's biggest player, Pfizer ($PFE), is reportedly looking to a Russian partner to get meds produced there.
Russia's Tass news agency, citing sources, says Pfizer is only days away from announcing a joint venture with Russian drugmaker Polysan to produce Pfizer meds in St. Petersburg. A Polysan spokesperson said only that its policy "is aimed at development of local pharmaceutical industry, including via cooperation with leading global pharma producers." A Pfizer spokesperson in the U.S. did not respond to a request for comment.
Polysan has plants in St. Petersburg and Belgorod where it manufactures its own portfolio of four products, Tass said. It also produces a neurological drug for Germany's Stada. Last summer Polysan struck a 10-year deal with Bayer to manufacture contrast media in Russia for the German company.
Although Russia's economy has been shrinking in the face of falling oil prices and Western sanctions, off 3.7% last year, drugmakers have been completing projects started when the economy was robust.
In October, AstraZeneca opened a $224 million facility in Kaluga about 90 miles outside of Moscow. Commercial production will start this year and when it is fully operational in 2017, the plant is projected to produce and package around 40 million packs and 850 million tablets of 30 different meds a year. That will account for about 60% of the drugs the U.K. company expects to be selling in Russia.
Last year, Novo opened an insulin plant in Technopark Grabtsevo, also in the Kaluga region of Russia. The company said it is the "first and only greenfield facility" in Russia for making modern insulin. A company spokeswoman said the plant will have 100 to 150 employees. The country currently accounts for only about 1% of the company's business.