Jimenez aims to keep off-patent Diovan in blockbuster territory

Yesterday, we got some hints about Pfizer's post-patent strategy for Lipitor. Novartis ($NVS) CEO Joe Jimenez (photo) is also thinking patents. He's now talking about his company's post-patent plans for its blood-pressure blockbuster Diovan. A two-word hint: emerging markets.

Diovan is a $6 billion-plus drug. It loses patent protection in U.S. next September. No doubt U.S. sales will quickly drop as generic rivals leach scripts away. But Jimenez figures Novartis can keep Diovan revenues at the $2 billion watermark, thanks to branded generic versions in faster-growing markets.

In Latin America and parts of Asia, Diovan already competes with generics. But the Novartis name means the branded drug can capture a higher price. And Jimenez says amping up promotions to doctors in those markets can grow those sales enough to make up for declines elsewhere. "We can get through the Diovan patent expiration if things go to plan," Jimenez told Bloomberg BusinessWeek. "The market hasn't digested that fully."

Diovan isn't the only patent loss Novartis will have to deal with soon. There's the cancer drug Gleevec, for example. Jimenez is taking a more familiar approach to softening that blow: Transferring doctors' allegiance to a newer version, Tasigna. "We have time to convince physicians and the industry that patients are better off with Tasigna," Jimenez says.

- read the Bloomberg BusinessWeek story