AZ pumps up branded generics with Torrent deal

AstraZeneca is jumping into the branded generics market with a licensing-and-supply deal with India's Torrent Pharmaceuticals. And like other Big Pharma-generics maker arrangements, this deal will marry AstraZeneca's brand name with Torrent's generic products in an effort to boost emerging-markets sales for both.

Off-patent drugs tend to sell better in emerging markets if they're attached to a recognizable pharma brand; consumers consider a Big Pharma name to be a quality guarantee. Under its deal with Torrent, AstraZeneca initially will attach its familiar brand to 18 products in nine countries, with more to come as time goes on, according to a company statement. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed, and a company spokesman declined to tell Reuters the names of the medicines involved or the countries where they will be sold, citing competitive reasons.

"In markets where consumers and physicians have a strong preference for trusted brands, we believe AstraZeneca's long-standing reputation for quality is a sustainable competitive advantage," Tony Zook, head of AstraZeneca's global commercial organization, says in a statement.

The deal marks AstraZeneca's first major foray into emerging-markets alliances, but, as Reuters points out, it's already selling some of its drugs in the developing world as branded generics. Even Crestor, its best-selling cholesterol drug, is a branded generic in India. Nonetheless, compared with other Big Pharmas, AstraZeneca sources a smaller percentage of its sales in emerging markets: 13 percent or $4.35 billion, Reuters reports. The company has said it wants to grow that to 25 percent--this Torrent tie-up could help make that happen.

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