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Abbott: Why Branded Generics Matter


Andrew Lane, EVP, Established Pharmaceuticals at Abbott, tells Pharm Exec how understanding emerging market dynamics can explain why branded generic medicines are important.

With 100 percent of its business in emerging markets, Abbott’s branded generics business – or established pharmaceuticals – is positioned for above-market growth in some of the largest and fastest-growing pharmaceutical markets in the world. In 2016, Abbott’s pharmaceutical business saw 10.5% operational sales growth and a total of $3.9B in sales.   Andrew Lane, EVP, Established Pharmaceuticals at Abbott, tells Pharm Exec how understanding emerging market dynamics can explain why branded generic medicines are important, and how Abbott is tailoring its product offerings to the specific needs of each region, offering new formulations, delivery methods and packaging.  

PharmExec: How is the changing healthcare landscape of emerging markets shaping Abbott’s branded generics activities?

Andrew Lane

Andrew Lane: Four of the world’s seven billion people live in emerging markets. That’s a lot of people that need access to quality, affordable medicines. As incomes rise and middle classes grow, there are increasingly more and more people in emerging markets that have money to spend on their health. And when paying out of pocket for healthcare, as most people do in emerging markets, they tend to choose the best they can afford and gravitate towards brands and companies they know and trust.

Our pharmaceutical business is 100 percent focused on emerging markets. To meet the demand for branded generic medicines and for us to be able to compete successfully in these markets we need to offer superior value to patients, doctors and pharmacists over our competitors. We achieve this by anticipating both patients’ and the market’s needs and delivering insight-driven innovations that improve medicines and give people a reason to choose Abbott medicines over competitors.  

Can you briefly outline Abbott’s strategy in some of these regions, and why branded generics are important?

Our business model is built to be powered globally, but driven locally. Our global scale provides us with a solid base to remain competitive, especially when it comes to manufacturing and innovations. But we also recognize that every country is different – from how a medicine gets approved, how it’s distributed and sold, how people access healthcare to who pays the bills. We use local insights to make improvements to off-patent medicines, we take key decisions locally and our local manufacturing sites help us to respond to market needs efficiently.

Understanding emerging market dynamics can help us to understand why branded generic medicines are important. As most people pay out of pocket for healthcare in emerging markets, consumer choice plays a big part. People tend to choose the best products they can afford and like in other industries they tend to gravitate towards brands and companies they recognize and trust. This is why we have to offer something of value that makes people want to choose our medicines. This value differs by product and market but can include user-friendliness, optimal delivery, better packing and added services. Our high-quality standards, reliable supply chain, clinical science and innovation allow us to differentiate ourselves from pure generic competitors

Can branded generics be made accessible to the world’s poorest patient communities?

Making healthcare available and affordable to people in emerging markets is an essential component of our goal to help people live healthier lives. In India for example, 70 percent of our high-quality medicines sell for less than seven rupees (roughly 10 U.S. cents) per pill. And as we introduce innovation to our medicines, we consider whether that improved medicine is still affordable for people in emerging markets.

To further support healthcare in emerging markets and increase health literacy we also have a number of educational programs aimed at both patients and healthcare professionals. For example:

• In Russia, we have implemented the Women First educational campaign to raise awareness of women’s health and issues that can affect reproductive health at numerous stages in a woman’s life. The program includes seminars, training articles, brochures and videos about women’s health for both healthcare professionals and the general public.

• More than 160,000 doctors worldwide use our multi-channel knowledge center, Knowledge Genie, to stay abreast of important scientific developments in medicine. Knowledge Genie provides doctors access to news about the latest treatments and techniques from over 3,000 medical journals and 2,000 e-books, as well as daily updates on research and clinical developments.

How do you tailor products for specific local communities, and what are the successful examples of this approach?

We use insights gathered by our local teams and convert these into meaningful new products. For example:

• We know treatment adherence is vital for good patient outcomes, especially for oncology patients. That’s why in Colombia we partnered with a company to introduce a technology called Clever Cap to improve patient adherence for two of our oncology medications. The cap, which fits a standard pill bottle, has an alarm to remind patients to take their medication and dispenses the prescribed amount. The device also connects to the internet to allow doctors and pharmacists to monitor compliance which is critically important for oncology patients. This simple addition to pill bottles has a great impact on patients who benefit greatly from the added value this technology brings.

• It’s important that children are comfortable taking medicines when they are unwell – if a medicine is hard to swallow or doesn’t taste nice it can be difficult to take. That’s why we used a ‘taste-blocking agent’ with one our antibiotics to create a better tasting version in Southeast Asia. This innovation gives children a better experience and makes them happier to take their medicine, without compromising the safety or efficacy of the product. 

How can branded generics in the poorer regions sustain company revenue in the long term?

As in developed countries, we’re seeing increasing aging populations and increasing prevalence of chronic diseases in emerging markets. Incomes are rising and middle classes are growing. Many more people are going to want access to quality, affordable medicines in the future. For example, by 2020 emerging markets will account for around 70 percent of deaths due to ischemic heart disease, stroke and diabetes. And over the next decade, the top 20 emerging markets are expected to double their spending on medicines.

Our pharmaceutical business, has experienced 13 consecutive quarters of double-digit growth. We are set up for future growth because we continue to compete on value and there is great opportunity to innovate existing products and services. Two factors that are critical to long-term success in the branded generic medicines business are anticipation and differentiation. We anticipate patient and market needs and use insight-driven innovation to deliver differentiation for our medicines.

What are your plans for extending access to branded generics across the emerging markets?

We drive scale and market share by having breadth and depth in core high-growth therapeutic areas – and then we apply that where it makes sense. For instance, if a great insight in Indonesia applies to the Philippines, we find out how we can make the medicine available in the Philippines as well. Our approach benefits patients, doctors and pharmacists and provides access to meaningful new medicines.

Over the next few years we plan to launch more than 400 new products. Emerging markets continue to change quickly but our flexible regional model allows us to remain on top and ahead of each market which will ultimately lead to increased access to branded generic medicines across emerging markets. 

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