The disruption has two sources: unrelenting commoditization in the market for generic versions of primary-care products—the industry’s mainstay for years—and a pronounced shift in the type of products losing patent protection. From 2014 to 2020, two-thirds of the value of products losing patent protection in Europe will be specialty drugs and biologics. The change is a mixed blessing: such products command higher margins, but they’re harder to make than small-molecule drugs.
These developments paint a pretty bleak picture for the European generics market—at least, that’s what conventional wisdom holds. The reality, though, is more complex. Without question, there are great challenges—especially for companies that are heavily dependent on less differentiated generics. But there are also opportunities:
- Generics companies that are focused on traditional primary-care products will certainly have to scour their operations for ways to boost efficiency. But squeezing costs isn’t the only path to success. Companies in other industries have found additional creative ways to deal with commoditization. Generics companies can take a page or two from those playbooks, including deciding whether to tap into the next growth wave—specialty drugs and biologics—by investing in new capabilities.
- Companies that originate patent-protected products will continue to aggressively defend their turf against inroads made by generics, but they’ll also have many more opportunities to target the off-patent products of their rivals—particularly specialty drugs and biosimilars, which have higher barriers to entry than standard generics.