Smaller players looking for expansion deals, too

Stallergenes' Oralair--courtesy of Stallergenes.

Not all drugmakers are behemoths like Pfizer ($PFE), Novartis ($NVS) or Sanofi ($SNY). Some are small companies but still face the same big problems bedeviling Big Pharma. They need to expand away from markets where tightening drug spending is making business really tough.

Take France's Stallergenes. The company has generally played regionally and relied primarily on its allergy drug, Oralair. But this year, with markets such as Spain cutting back, it expanded to other markets, like Russia, Argentina and Turkey. It also is eyeing Germany, the world's largest market for allergy drugs, Reuters reports, and may seek approval of Oralair in the U.S. It also has about $106 million in cash, some of which it could use for acquisitions. Like Big Pharma, it is looking at emerging markets like Latin America for an opportunity.

"Our international expansion is a priority," CEO Roberto Gradnik told Reuters. "We want to speed it up as much as possible. ... We are always talking to many potential partners or targets."

The difficulties facing Stallergenes are well known to any number of regional players in Europe, who are seeing governments there cut drug spending. Some, such as Spain's Almirall, are doing something about it. They are looking beyond their traditional markets for new sales, potentially at the loss of Big Pharma.

- read the Reuters story