All opinions are my own.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Commoditization of Drugs

Until 2006 low cost drugs could be purchased outside US only. Wal-Mart started to sell 30-day and 90-day supply at $4.00 and $10.00 respectively in 2006. Recently other pharma-sellers have joined to serve the growing market. These prices were unheard of before 2006. Even at these prices respective members of the supply chain (producers, formulators and HMO’s) are making “good” margins.

Commoditization had begun in 2006 and we did not realize it. With the current global economic downturn, an ever-increasing aging population and economic upswing of the under-developed countries demanding common ailment drugs, the commoditization pace has accelerated. As we go forward the number of the drugs in the 30 and 90-day pool will increase. With the larger customer base, the annual volume for many of the active pharmaceutical ingredients (API) will increase.

Fine and specialty chemical companies (e.g. BASF and Albemarle among others are producers of ibuprofen and naproxen (Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs: NSAID)) and generic drug companies are producing common cure APIs (i.e. specialty fine chemicals that have disease curing value). Many generics formulate various dosages for sale. Most of the drugs US pharma-sellers are offering for sale are being produced and formulated outside US. Big pharmaceutical companies are not involved in these programs.

As more brand name drugs become generic and the volume of generics increases, entrepreneurs, existing and new, would want to take advantage of the business opportunity. Market economics and desire for profits will result in the development of better processes and movement from batch processes to continuous processes. Better process technologies will reduce the costs of active pharmaceutical ingredient (API) resulting in higher profits for the members of the supply chain. All this will be result in higher profits and increased commoditization of the “off-patent” drugs.

It is expected that successes of better process technologies for the generic APIs might result in better manufacturing technologies for the ethical/brand drugs also thereby increasing their respective profits. It is possible that the lower costs from better processes for generics and ethical drugs might not be necessarily passed on to the consumers.

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