Batten down the hatches. The voyage ahead is one of Odyssean proportions, with generic drugs ready to suck away sales like the Charybdis maelstrom and biotech bewitching R&D like the irresistible Circe. By year's end, we're expected to see only 5 to 6 percent growth industry-wide. But like all voyages, this one can be a transition, a route from one place to another. The layoffs and restructuring that will play out this year can lead to better, stronger, faster companies--or not. The new execs still gearing up or taking over this year could lead their crews into new, creative passages--or not. Biotech fever could transform pharma into exciting and profitable innovators--or R&D execs could transform into farm animals.
Okay, that's taking the analogy a bit far. But the point is this: Pharma could consider itself embattled, stymied, doomed. It could look back wistfully at the old ways of doing business, at its portfolios of aging meds. Or it could face forward to steer through the tight straits ahead, toward a new, very different destination.
Our bet? A few companies will reinvent themselves. The rest will tack here and there, looking for ways to recapture the cozy past, and founder.
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