Merck ($MRK) eyes Indian drug launches, partnership

Merck ($MRK) is looking to an Indian trifecta. It aims to launch a new rotavirus vaccine in India during the first half of next year, introduce a new heart drug over the same timeframe, and find a strategic partner in the domestic market, Merck's Asia Pacific President Ramesh Subrahmanian said at the World Economic Forum's India summit.

As Reuters reports, Merck wants a local partner to help beef up its portfolio in India. But not just any partner, Subrahmanian said. "It has to fill a strategic gap," he said. "[I]t could be portfolio gaps, capability gaps."

Big drugmakers have been teaming up with Indian pharma companies as growth slows in Western markets and accelerates markedly in developing countries such as India. Because of Indian pharma's expertise in generics, these partnerships and buyouts offer two kinds of diversification in one: copycat meds and emerging markets. Think Daiichi Sankyo's stake in India-based Ranbaxy Laboratories, or Abbott Laboratories' ($ABT) recent $3.7 billion deal for Piramal Healthcare's branded generics business.

Abbott leapfrogged into first place in the Indian market with its Piramal buy. According to the Economic Times, Merck is aiming for second place. Meanwhile, some Indian pharma boosters are worried that multinationals will end up with too much market share, pushing prices upward and weakening the domestic industry. The Indian government has been considering potential curbs to foreign investment. So if Merck wants to do an Indian deal, it may need to do so quickly.

- see the Reuters news
- get more from the Economic Times