Norton Healthcare, the UK-based pharmaceutical subsidiary of the American company IVAX Corporation, has entered into "development partnership" agreements with Nicholas Piramal India Ltd and RPG Life Sciences Ltd. The UK-based company is planning to tie up with yet another Indian company within the next six months.
The 160 million Norton Healthcare has recently opened a liaison office, headed by Dr Parizad Elchidana, at Jogeshwari in Mumbai. The office houses an analytical laboratory which will facilitate joint development work on drug formulations.
The agreements with the Indian companies involve development of bulk actives and formulations for drugs that will go off patent in different years up to 2004. Norton has commissioned the Indian companies to work on five drugs so far, with Nicholas Piramal taking up projects on three drugs, and RPG Life Sciences on two.
According to Jeremy Desai, director - new product development, Norton Healthcare, the projects have been on for the last 9-12 months, and are expected to clear bio-equivalence studies on human subjects by year-end. "The first drug will hit international markets in the year 2002," Dr Desai says.
Under the agreement, Norton Healthcare will market the generics in Europe. Rights for the US markets will be licensed to Zenith Goldline, a US-based pharmaceutical subsidiary of IVAX Corporation. The Indian partners will get royalty as a percentage of sales along with manufacturing contracts for supplying bulk drugs and finished dosage forms.
The market for generic drugs is estimated at 9 per cent of the total pharmaceutical market. Estimated sales: $27.2 billion in 1998. The US market is the largest with $11.1 billion in sales, followed by Western Europe with $6.3 billion. Industry projections see the market expanding to $43.3 billion by 2003, with US share estimated at $18.2 billion and Western Europe at 12.1 billion. For more on the generics market, click here. For list of drugs going off patent, click here.
Norton Healthcare will commission six more projects in 2000, which will be shared between Nicholas Piramal and RPG Life Sciences. "If we manage to rope in one more company, we would take up nine projects in the year 2000," Dr Desai says.
Dr Desai brushes aside rumours that Norton Healthcare and Nicholas Piramal are on the verge of signing a joint venture agreement. He says that given the high import duties in India, it does not make business sense to locally market Norton's products, mainly inhalers for asthma patients.
On future plans, he says that Norton is interested in exploiting the scientific talents available in India rather than investing in manufacturing. He also scotches rumours of the possibility of Norton acquiring Astra IDL's Bangalore unit that has the technology to manufacture inhalers.
Norton Healthcare is the number one generics company in the UK, where it has a 33 per cent market share. It has a strong presence in respiratory products such as salbutamol and betamethasone inhalers. Its businesses are split into branded as well as conventional generic drugs. The company employs 1,200 people in the UK and Ireland.