Teva CEO plans to court Chinese market with generics, respiratory meds

Teva CEO Jeremy Levin thinks his company and China are a match made in heaven. The Israeli generics giant is, after all, adept at making and selling cheap drugs, which the fast-growing Chinese market needs. And Teva ($TEVA) has a strong portfolio of respiratory treatments--perfect for a country beset by air pollution.

As ChinaBio Today reports, Teva isn't very active in China at the moment. While Big Pharma companies like Pfizer ($PFE), Bayer, Novartis ($NVS) and Sanofi ($SNY) were building plants, making deals and setting up partnerships in China, Teva was doing its own deals elsewhere, including its $6.3 billion Cephalon deal and its $934 million buyout of Japanese generics maker Taiyo Pharmaceutical.

But Levin apparently has ambitions for China now. As he told the Reuters Health Summit, "Our portfolio more closely matches the needs of that nation than nearly any other company in the world. ... As the healthcare system changes in China, we certainly will be looking to embark on ways of bringing what the Chinese government and Chinese companies want."

Levin helped previous employers with forays into China, so he's not inexperienced in the market. At Bristol-Myers Squibb ($BMY), he built out the company's string-of-pearls acquisitions strategy, too. So, ChinaBio figures Levin's first big move there will be an acquisition.

Meanwhile, Levin is continuing to beef up Teva's branded drug business. That desire--to add some higher-priced branded products to Teva's cheap generics portfolio--was behind the Cephalon deal in 2010, before Levin arrived. Now, Teva has signed up to market Alexza Pharmaceuticals' ($ALXA) inhaled antipsychotic drug Adasuve, in a deal worth up to $260 million in cash and debt.

"This agreement reflects our business development strategy to pursue opportunities in our core therapeutic areas where we can apply our expertise and experience to enhance treatment options for patients," Teva's Larry Downey said in a statement, saying that some 5 million patients with bipolar disorder or schizophrenia experience agitation episodes, which the drug is approved to treat. "Adasuve is a compelling addition to our U.S. Specialty Medicines portfolio."

- see Teva's Adasuve release
- read the ChinaBio story
- get more from Haaretz

Special Report: Top 10 Big Pharma investments in China