A tale of Novartis vs. Roche

It's a tale of two companies, Swiss style. The Financial Times compares pharma rivals Roche and Novartis, whose headquarters are both in Basel, Switzerland. Just about a mile apart, in fact. But as the FT outlines, their strategies are almost polar opposites. And those strategies for dealing with pharma's current challenges exemplify an industry-wide split.

On on side, there's Roche, a proponent of pure pharma. Roche swallowed its U.S. biotech partner Genentech earlier this year in a $42 billion deal that cemented its focus on specialty meds and diagnostics. Much of Roche's revenues come from high-tech meds like Avastin, its cancer treatment that's been called a pipeline in one drug. Such treatments bear big price tags, and they don't require enormous primary-care sales forces, the FT points out.

On the other, there's Novartis, which takes a more diversified approach, with both primary-care and specialty drugs, generic meds, vaccines, and a growing presence in eyecare, helped by its recent investment in Alcon.

Standing with Roche, as the FT sees it, are AstraZeneca, which bought MedImmune--strengthening its biologics business--and since has stayed out of the big-deal arena. Its "smaller scale" makes it forever the subject of buyout talk, like the rumors recently circulating of a Novartis-Astra combo. Eli Lilly, despite its animal health division, is more pure pharma than diversified business, too, the FT says.

On the Novartis side? GlaxoSmithKline, which has a big OTC business and generics operations. Pfizer, which is buying Wyeth in part to build its vaccine biz and get back into OTC products. Sanofi-Aventis has also expanded its generics and animal health operations, and is considering further growth in animal health and vaccines.

It's a different approach to the usual juxtaposition of megamerger types and bolt-on-deal types, which puts Pfizer, Merck, and Roche on the former side and Glaxo, Sanofi, and Novartis on the other. Which approach do you think is more valid? Any classifications you'd like to suggest?

- read the FT story

ALSO: Novartis has gained U.S. approval for a combination of its blockbuster blood pressure drug Diovan and its follow-up product Tekturna/Rasilez. Report