The world's largest CROs are reaping the benefits of two major market trends: Big Pharma is finally getting back to spending big on R&D after some lean years post-downturn, and biotech is enjoying a protracted bit of bullishness that has lined pockets around the industry.
Price caps on "essential drugs" in India have been a sore point with domestic as well as Big Pharma players. The industry was further enraged when an Indian agency in May assumed the authority to add other products to the 350 already restricted. But the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi is reining in the National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA), suggesting he may have a less populous approach to the industry than his predecessor.
Pharma M&A action so far this year has been intense--so intense that if it keeps up the pace it could match the uber years of 2008 and 2010, maybe even the record year of 2009.
Margins, margins, margins. That's an inevitable mantra among top investors and analysts. Just ask Novartis CEO Joe Jimenez, who's pledged big improvements in the Swiss drugmaker's spread. Or Eli Lilly CFO Derica Rice, who's had to explain why his company can promise to maintain margins as its sales spiral downward.
As the death toll from West Africa's Ebola outbreak hits nearly 540--a 60% mortality rate--drug development for the untreatable disease is lagging, largely due to lack of interest from Big Pharma and the relative infrequency of the disease.
The potential to mine electronic medical records for insights into disease prevalence, drug adherence, patient safety and a host of other areas has attracted a who's who of Big Pharma, with the likes of GlaxoSmithKline, Johnson & Johnson and Pfizer all running programs. And now the FDA is pushing ahead with its plans by seeking access to a patient-level database.
Good news for drugmakers: Sales will grow more than 5% through 2020. More good news: Patent cliffs will be more like "rolling hills" in the years to come, thanks to the preponderance of biologic meds. Even more good news: Last year's crop of new drugs is the strongest in years, judging by the blockbuster-level expectations for most of them.
According to Eye for Pharma's latest Healthcheck survey of the drug business, 42% of respondents said they don't think pharma's image is getting any better among average folks, whereas a mere 19% think pharma's rep is improving.
Where have all the Big Pharma jobs gone? To emerging markets, for one. For another? The world's biggest drugmakers have shuffled their decks, with some shedding jobs and others gaining. Any guesses which? We'll get to that.
FDA actions against India's Ranbaxy Laboratories ostensibly are keeping U.S. consumers safer, but much poorer. The plant bans have also shined a spotlight on how complex drug laws in the U.S. can work against consumers' best interests.