Pfizer clears the decks for fresh start, looks to energise bestseller list

Topics Pharma

American pharma major Pfzer is unclogging the marketing lines for its band of bestseller drug brands in the country. Following the transfer of six old global blockbusters that never really set the Indian market ablaze to an entity formed as a result of the merger between Upjohn (Pfizer’s off-patent branded drugs division) and primarily generic drug maker Mylan, the company is hoping to flex some marketing muscle and galvanize brands that have worked well in the country’s price-conscious and competitive drug market. 

Pfizer’s Upjohn used to package old products like Lipitor and Viagra (whose patents have either expired or are about to) with its generic business. In the Indian market, the six brands transferred into the Pfizer Upjohn Mylan venture include Lyrica (used as an anti-neuropathic pain drug), Amlogard (anti hypertension), Dilantin (anti-seizure), Viagra (erectile dysfunction), Fumycin (anti-fungal), Daxid (anti-depressant). 

Pfizer sells around 150 brands in India, with multi-vitamin Becosules, antacid brand Gelusil, cough syrup Corex being among the top ten contributors to its topline. These brands have managed to hold their own even as the company’s global marquee brands have withered under the glare of domestic competition. 

Consider the example of anti-erectile dysfunction brand Viagra. Launched towards the end of the 1990’s Viagra was a runaway hit and soon became a billion dollar brand for Pfizer. It is also one of the most counterfeited drugs across the globe. 

However, in India Manforce by Mankind Pharma is the market leader in the category, with a 56 per cent share of the  market. Viagra at third spot is way behind with 7 per cent share. 
Anti-hypertension drug Amlogard, is another example. Once one of the most recalled brands in India, it has been cast in the shadows by the Hyderabad-based Dr Reddy’s Laboratories’s Stamlo, which is the market leader in the category (amlodipine) with 17 per cent share. Pfizer’s Amlogard has just 4 per cent share here. 

But now with the six global blockbusters that didn’t quite set the Indian drug stores on fire off its deck, the company expects to spend more time and money on its profitable brands. Still, sceptics ask, given its failure to leverage the big names, can it really up the ante now?

Ranjit Kapadia, senior pharma analyst tracking multinational drug firms in India explained that the fault lay in the pricing strategy that had been adopted for the drug in India. “Pfizer imports Viagra here and thus its pricing is not at par with the Indian counterparts. Also, before 1995, Indian laws allowed making patented drugs here if a different process (other than the patented process) was used. This led to copy-cat drugs.”

He believes that the company has a window of opportunity here, as it needs to fix a few minor quibbles to get the top selling brands their due in the country. Pfizer India, which posted an annual sales of Rs 2,030 crore as on March 2019 (a 5.5 per cent year on year rise) has also lately focused on its profitable brands. Although its FY19 turnover is lower than its turnover as on March 2016 (Rs 2,072 crore) and has been falling for two consecutive years, profits have grown consistently. From Rs 305 crore in March 2016 to Rs 429 crore in March 2019, reflecting the impact of its sharper focus on popular brands.

Kapadia felt that the transfer will not dent Pfizer’s India revenues as these cumulatively contributed around Rs 144 crore to its topline, about 4.8 per cent. Instead, it could free up resources for brands already doing well in the country.



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