Drugmakers tweak their Brazilian strategies

Big Pharma is looking eastward for new growth--chiefly in China, India and Russia--but drugmakers are also moving south. The Financial Times takes a survey of drugmakers' operations and ambitions in Brazil, finding that the double-digit growth projected there is attracting lots of interest. But it also poses some particular challenges.

For instance, certain copycat drugs in Brazil don't have to be proven identical to the branded versions. Hence the term "similares" for this category of meds. That's going to change soon; new rules are aimed at phasing out similares by 2014, according to a recent Datamonitor report. But in the meantime, the availability of these cheap drugs means that Big Pharma has to be careful not only with its product range, but with pricing as well.

Different companies have different strategies, as the FT points out, but one common theme is variety: Novo Nordisk ($NVO) sells its branded diabetes drugs in Brazil, but it also offers cheap, older insulin meds, which are purchased by the government. Sanofi-Aventis ($SNY) expanded into over-the-counter drugs and branded generics with its purchase of Brazil's Medley. GlaxoSmithKline ($GSK) offers branded drugs targeted to the middle class--a growing sector of the drug market--but it also is aiming for other market segments with less expensive products.

"The strategies of the past decade were very product-centric: find someone who needs it," GSK SVP Rogerio Ribeiro tells the paper. "Now it's the opposite: identify customer segments and find out what they want."

- read the FT piece
- see an article from PharmaTimes