Cipla eyes US generics market, in talks for alliance

Indian pharmaceuticals major Cipla is in talks with three US companies for possible alliances to market off-patent, high-value formulations in that country. A traditional exporter of bulk drugs, the recent move is part of the company''s strategy to enter the US generics market in a big way in the select segments of oncology, anti-bacterial and anti-asthma.

According to Amar Lulla, director, Cipla, the negotiations are in an advanced stage, and cover a host of issues ranging from technology transfer from Cipla to the potential alliance partners in exchange for royalty and exports. The company has not announced any names so far.

On the crucial issue of patenting, Cipla is still negotiating with US companies to formulate an exact structure. As regards filing the abbreviated new drug applications (ANDAs), Lulla says the company has identified 11 formulations for the US market, and applications will be filed directly by Cipla or through the US partners. ANDAs are filed for off-patent generic formulations developed via new patent non-infringing processes.

Cipla''s US strategy is in line with its policy for the UK, Canada and other countries where too it has identified local partners to provide marketing expertise and distribution networks.

The company recently signed an agreement with the UK-based Neolab for marketing generic formulations in Europe. Other alliances include those with Novopharm for the Canadian market, Heliopharm for Egypt and Cipharm for Africa. The company is looking at something similar for the US market.

Exports contribute significantly to the Rs 511 crore turnover of the company. In 1997-98, exports rose 18 per cent to Rs 73 crore. In the first nine months of 1998-99, exports crossed the Rs 100-crore mark, the target set for the entire year. Europe accounted for the largest chunk -- 29 per cent.