Monday, December 15, 2008

Deals of the Year Nominee: Pfizer/Ranbaxy

Ah, awards season. Why should film critics have all the fun? And voting! It's not just for presidential elections. This year your IN VIVO Blog team is nominating a handful of alliances, acquisitions, financings, regulatory negotiations and legislative compromises in our First Annual DOTY competition. And then you, dear readers, will vote (early and often, we hope) for the winner. Imaginary federal and international biopharmaceutical statutes prohibit us from awarding a monetary prize. But our winners, when they die, on their deathbeds, they will receive total consciousness. So they've got that going for them, which is nice.

In some circles, the event had its own acronym: LLOE – Lipitor Loss of Exclusivity. Now it has a date: Nov. 30, 2011 -- the end of the primary care era for pharma. Think that’s a little extreme? Well, you don’t get to be a Deal of the Year Nominee by playing it safe.

Except in this case you do. While most of the DotYNs you’ve read about here are essentially bets by firms that big ideas will work out in one form or another, this was a tale of two companies not wanting to take a chance. As we explained in the Pink Sheet, the deal gives some certainty to both sides, but what it really offers is closure.

In an era when product expirations – either through the lifting of exclusivity or the weight of safety problems--seem more common than product launches, this deal is an example of how big pharma can try to take its primary care jumbo jets in for soft landings. Protonix’s fall to earth offered a number of lessons for generic and brand firms to learn, and Ranbaxy seems to have gotten some good practice deal-making when it worked out a settlement on Nexium with AstraZeneca.
With the lawsuit behind them, both Ranbaxy and Pfizer can focus on what’s next. For Ranbaxy, it’s resolving manufacturing problems and figuring out how to be a regional growth engine for a big pharma. (The Daiichi/Ranbaxy merger, which may have contributed to the Pfizer settlement, is also a DotYN – vote for them both!)

For Pfizer, the question is how to learn to love being a drug maker again. CEO Jeffery Kindler may not have all the answers to that one yet, but by acknowledging the end of the Lipitor relationship, he’s moving in the right direction. Failing to recognize the seriousness of the problem helped cost the previous management team its jobs, so the decision to sign the divorce papers with the firm’s biggest product perversely takes a weight off the company.

But while the Ranbaxy settlement is a great example of what a company like Pfizer can get when it has a former general counsel as its CEO, that talent for certainty may also be emblematic of what a firm might miss out on. Because while some other new big pharma CEOs have been out trying to gobble up innovative technology or swallow up successful partners, one of the principal development decisions Pfizer has made with Kindler at the helm has been to stop placing bets on cardiovascular research.

But at least the financial community now knows how to model PFE’s LLOE. And so we formally nominate Pfizer/Ranbaxy for achievement in the category of playing it safe.

image by flickr user maxymedia used under a creative commons license.

No comments: