Is Diversification the Right Strategy for Big Pharma?
June 18, 2018 | Strategy
Jane weber brubaker
Top pharma companies may be well-advised to look beyond their core business – prescription branded pharmaceuticals – to other healthcare sectors as a hedge of protection against looming threats including:
- Declining revenues as a result of patent expiries
- Impending launches of biosimilars
- Slow R&D productivity
- Pricing pressures
- Payer restrictions
A new trend report from Datamonitor Healthcare by analyst Amanda Micklus, Big Pharma Diversification Strategies, evaluates opportunities in 10 healthcare sectors by looking at indicative profit potential (IPP), a metric derived by multiplying the total market value of a sector by its average profit margin.
Using this calculation, the prescription branded pharmaceuticals sector has the highest IPP by a factor of almost five compared to the next highest sector, but other sectors such as medical devices and diagnostics, and OTC/consumer health also have high profit potential. “The Big Pharma companies that have already diversified into this area, and are remaining there, have done well in terms of growing revenue,” says Micklus.
The report classifies the top 15 pharmaceutical companies into three categories based on strategy:
- Focused – 90 percent of revenue from pharmaceuticals (ex. Bristol-Myers Squibb)
- Intermediate – 50 to 90 percent of revenue from pharmaceuticals; balance from non-pharmaceutical businesses (ex. GlaxoSmithKline)
- Diversified – < 50 percent of revenue from branded pharmaceuticals; more than half of revenue from non-pharmaceutical businesses (ex. Johnson & Johnson)
Here, we’ll recap highlights from three case studies that illustrate each of the strategies.
Bristol-Myers Squibb – Focused Strategy
Bristol-Myers Squibb put a stake in the ground in 2007, shifting its focus to specialty medicines and biologics after a restructuring. “Our unique BioPharma strategy … leverages the reach and resources of a major pharma company paired with the entrepreneurial spirit and agility of a biotech firm,” the company’s website touts.
To accumulate the cash needed to support M&A activity in its new focus areas, the company divested several businesses, including ConvaTec, its wound care business, and Lantheus, which produces nuclear and ultrasound cardiovascular diagnostic imaging agents. The acquisition of Medarex, an antibody drug discovery firm, added two key immuno-oncology products to the company’s biologics portfolio.
Between 2013 and 2017, revenue from biologics increased (CAGR +30 percent) relative to small molecules (CAGR -2 percent). Small molecules today represent a decreasing portion of the pie relative to biologics.
GlaxoSmithKline – Intermediate Strategy
GlaxoSmithKline’s (GSK) pharmaceutical business dropped to 74 percent of total revenues between 2016 and 2017, down from 80 percent between 2013 and 2015. Revenue from the pharmaceutical business is largely comprised of small molecules, with vaccines a growing category.
GSK’s consumer health brands include household names such as Sensodyne, Nicorette, and Theraflu. The consumer health business has been growing as a proportion of total revenue, taking share away from small molecules, according to Datamonitor Healthcare. The consumer health sector averaged 21 percent of the company’s total revenue from 2013 to 2017.
Solidifying its position further, GSK recently cut a deal for $13bn with Novartis, it’s partner in a consumer health joint venture, to take over the entire project. Emma Walmsley, GSK CEO, stated that the proposed deal would “allow GSK shareholders to capture the full value of one of the world’s leading consumer healthcare businesses.” (Scrip, March 27, 2018).
Johnson & Johnson – Diverisified Strategy
Dominic Caruso, Johnson & Johnson’s (J&J) chief financial officer, says the company should not be described as a pharma, devices, or consumer company. Rather, it is a healthcare company. Consistent with this view, on average, only 44 percent of the firm’s revenue over the past five years came from prescription pharmaceuticals.
The company’s consumer health business is large part of its overall strategy, in spite of some setbacks including a major recall of OTC analgesics in 2010. Since then, J&J has been gradually regaining market share from private labels. CNN reported in May that the company was hit with a $25.75 million verdict related to its Baby Powder product after a patient contracted pleural mesothelioma.
J&J plans large-scale marketing campaigns focused on six core areas: OTC, oral health, women’s health, wound care, baby care, and beauty, hoping to rebuild its consumer business back to its previous standing. It also plans to ramp up direct to consumer sales through digital channels.
These examples illustrate three distinct approaches that Big Pharma may employ for maximum growth and competitiveness. Companies must continue to respond to the challenges facing the industry as a whole, and craft flexible strategies that capitalize on their strengths while minimizing risks.
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