Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Sun Pharma’s Exotic Challenge: How Real?

Since Sun’s acquisition of Ranbaxy Business-Standard, Economic Times and other papers have published many stories related to good and wonderful nature of the deal. I am sure everyone in India wants this to be a success and recoup the lost pride in Ranbaxy’s demise. However, no one wants to address or publish or discuss anything about the challenges Sun will face to get everything running full speed. Some of issues, especially personnel, Sun will have to deal with are generally considered taboo.   

In India businesses started are generally passed on to the coming generations. Before the launch of economic revolution in 1991 handful of companies were interested in India. Not very many companies are bought and sold in Indian culture. A sale to a competitor basically meant the entrepreneurs had failed, a setback in community. With that context acquisition of Ranbaxy by an Indian company has caught everyone by surprise and even pride. Ranbaxy has come home. Ranbaxy was part of the elite; the biggest pharma in India and its sale to Daiichi Sankyo was a loss. 

Sun’s acquisition of Ranbaxy besides financial benefits creates unprecedented opportunities to change the global landscape. It will face significant issues that any other Indian companies have not encountered on its scale. For its success it will have to deal with them. How they will manage and handle assimilation will determine Sun’s success.

Sun’s highest priority is get the sites approved from USFDA and other regulatory bodies ASAP to earn the trust and revenue it needs to implement changes. To achieve success Sun will have to deal with technology and human side of the organization. They will have to be dealt with very gently. I believe such an endeavor on this scale that has global implications has not been dealt in Indian business. 

On human side, personal and personnel issues may become the biggest hurdle. Colleagues of yesterday could challenge boss-subordinate relationships of tomorrow and that may impede assimilation. Sun’s way of managing and cajoling Indian psyche would be put to ultimate test. It might have to invent new and different ways and methods to develop strong and cohesive teams that will deliver on its goals.

On technology side Sun has to figure out how to move from every pharma company’s practice of “regulation centricity” to “process centricity” i.e. have complete command of the processes so that they can exceed regulations. This is a unique opportunity and not very many get it. It could be called once in a lifetime opportunity to change the global pharma playing field by showing how quality can be produced while lowering costs and improving profits. Complete and parallel review of the business model could create a model that could deliver quality and quantity on patient demand.

Benefits of process centricity if adopted can change the playing field in many ways. Stakeholders will have command of the processes and that means they will be able to rationalize global businesses for their products. Economies of scale will lead to commercialization of the best technologies which in turn would mean the producers will know that they have control of every aspect of manufacturing, quality and supply chain. Used technologies will exceed regulations and that would be something new and unheard of especially in pharma. Quality will be built in their processes rather than achieved through “trial and error” process.

Sun could step out of the pharma’s “me-too” model box and show how “process centricity” can change the playing field as it exceeds regulations and produces quality products with minimal in-process analysis. Such an achievement could change the global playing field forever. Ranbaxy had this opportunity in 2008 but did not take advantage of the opportunity. May be Sun will avail the opportunity and put the pride back for Indian management.

For assimilation to happen perfectly each wheel will have to turn at speeds to deliver the combined expected result. I am sure Sun’s team is well aware of the challenges they will face and were part of the acquisition consideration equation. I hope they have the resources and are willing to tap into resources to achieve their objectives. 

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

What Do The Recent Ranbaxy Citations Teach Us?

Recent Ranbaxy citation (UCM382514) is worth the review as it gives us cause and effect relationship between state of pharmaceutical manufacturing and regulations. Information can be used to improve pharmaceutical manufacturing whether it is API manufacturing or their formulations and how to avoid some of the common mistakes. It also gives us perspective of the regulators. Views expressed here are my own and are not any recommendations.

Involvement of Daiichi Sankyo as claimed may be coming but it may be too little too late.

Ranbaxy (Toansa) citation focuses on the following.

1.     Raw materials, intermediates and finished API failing specifications.

2.     Repeated analysis of the samples.

3.     Lack of procedures and adequate record keeping

Not being associated with or visited any of the Ranbaxy facilities, my first observation is that the manufacturing and supply chain management are out of control. These are also manifestation of a business model being practiced and are inadequate to meet the ever-changing needs at a plant site.  

Re-analysis of raw materials suggests that the company’s supply chain process needs significant review and edits. My conjecture is that the focus is on getting the cheapest raw materials that might come close to the desired specifications. Since these raw materials are converted to the desired API, process purification could be used to remove the impurities. If this is the case it is suggestive that there are serious issues and finally they have culminated in the current state.

Repeated sampling and analysis suggests that the manufacturing processes are out of control and yields are a variable. Product quality will be variable and in order to meet the desired specifications batch cycles would be variable. With lower asset utilization the overall plant capacity is lower than planned and costs will be higher than desired. This suggests that plant or the company profitability is a variable.

Lack of procedures also suggests that with changing raw materials, process conditions, methods and results plant personnel do not know how to analyze samples and then it becomes a fly-by-night operation and that is what the regulators found.

Since all such costs are absorbed, it means that the selling price of the salable API and the formulated products, to ensure profits, are much higher than what could be achieved by having optimum processes. All this could have been eliminated if Ranbaxy had complete command of their processes and they are repeatable. From a financial perspective this would mean that the site profits would be much higher from the current levels, a significant opportunity. In addition, asset utilization would improve resulting in higher production capacity with no or minimal investment.

Regulators in their citation/s are confirming that the processes are out of control. It is understandable that the regulators cannot and will not suggest corrective measures to comply. However there is an underlying question “Do the regulators know the cause and effect of what is happening when they are visiting/inspecting API manufacturing and their formulation facilities?”

Ranbaxy citation clearly indicates that there is tremendous opportunity to lower pharmaceutical manufacturing costs i.e. healthcare costs. Lower costs can mean larger customer base that can result in incorporation of better manufacturing technologies. Having command of the processes can be a global win.

Ranbaxy and Daiichi Sankyo have given significant lip service with every citation and consent decree suggesting they are in control of the situation but it seems that neither of them has been able to “walk the talk”.

Actually FDA citation of the API manufacturing facility is a heightened salvo and heads up warning to every API producer and formulator in India not to overlook cGMP practices. cGMP can only happen when companies will have command of the processes. Till that happens, with every inspection every company should be looking out for potential citations.

Girish Malhotra, PE

EPCOT International

Monday, February 3, 2014

Recent Posts That Relate to Pharmaceuticals and Chemicals-II

The following posts have been posted on and might be of interest.

  1. Will Pharma's Global Customers Redefine Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs?                        January 27, 2014 
  2. Reading the Tea Leaves: Predictions for Pharma's Future                                                   January 15, 2014
  3. Can Emerging Pharma's Leadership Move On to the Next Stage?                                  December 18, 2013