The entire German pharmaceuticals industry is facing major challenges such as the expiry of patents and new medications from its own R&D departments. Pharmaceuticals company groups are therefore well advised to start comprehensive transformation programmes in order to develop growth platforms and to ensure sustainable growth. Their former business model, which was strongly oriented to the traditional markets in Europe and the USA, must be diversified and adapted to the variety of company activities and a global presence.
It is important for pharmaceuticals companies to continually examine their own product ranges for the most promising projects and effective ingredients in order to ensure the most effective use of resources. The object is to develop innovative solutions, still-undiscovered patient needs and to pursue creative and productive research approaches.
Research and development is an essential pillar in a company. Those companies that concentrate on medication requiring prescription, conduct research in this direction, increasingly seek out external innovation and are more open than before to cooperative programmes and partnerships with universities, extra-mural research centres and bio-tech companies are the ones that will survive.
Business in the emerging economies will also gain in significance. In these countries, there is a strongly growing, immense need for medications. The people in these countries with their rapidly growing populations – just as much as we in the western industrial nations – also need innovative medications and to share in medical progress. Equally important is trade in freely available over-the-counter medications and generics.
As an international pharmaceutical company, sanofi-aventis relies on strong growth in sera, diabetes and oncology. Diabetes mellitus and its accompanying and ensuing diseases are a particular point of emphasis, not only in research and development but also in manufacturing. This goes back to 1923, when the first steps in making a successful diabetes therapy were taken. The Diabetes Business Unit is an important part of the international strategic reorientation of the sanofi-aventis pharmaceuticals group.
In the process, the sanofi-aventis group relies on more flexible structures, smaller entrepreneurial units and greater patient orientation, together with more openness to scientific institutions; this trend can also be observed in the development of new medications. Research and development in Frankfurt-Höchst does not just concentrate on diabetes – other focal points in research in Höchst include old-age-related diseases, pain and osteoarthritis (degenerative joint diseases). Compared with other companies, sanofi-aventis is an extraordinary group because it implements all the steps in the production chain from initial research work to shipment of newly-manufactured medications and, in addition to 85 other countries around the world, supplies the German market with medications. If the research-based pharmaceuticals companies observe a few of the principles mentioned here and commit themselves to their research and manufacturing locations, the pharmaceuticals industry will be able to take an optimistic view towards the future in spite of expiring patents.
The author is chairman of the management of Sanofi-Aventis Deutschland GmbH and since 2004 has been responsible for the international production of sterile products and inhalation preparations. Dr Martin Siewert, who is a qualified pharmacist, started his career at Hoechst AG in 1992. He previously worked in various positions at the Central Laboratory for German Pharmacists.