Merck Secures 2 Patents in India for Obesity and Dyslipidemia Drugs

by Thilaka Ravi on May 12 2008 4:40 PM

US-based Merck has received patent approval for two of its upcoming drugs for dyslipidemia and obesity from the Indian Patent Office. The two newly patented drugs that are in the final stages of trial and are yet to receive the Drug Controller General of India’s (DCGI) approval.

Up until now, Januvia, Merck’s $770-million anti-diabetes drug, has been the only one to have a patent approval in India. The $24.2-billion company has fresh plans to aggressively file patents and have a localized pricing strategy for such drugs in order to scale up its impact in the Indian market.

The strategy is in line with Merck’s game plan to corner at least a 4% market share in India and emerge as one the top five players in the country by 2015.

MSD Pharma is a wholly owned subsidiary of Merck & Co in India. Its director (marketing) Sanjiv Navangul said, “We have received patent approval for two more drugs in India which are in advanced Phase III trials. We soon expect to launch them here. However, we will have a competitive and right pricing for all our patented drugs based on comprehensive research.”

The company’s right-pricing strategy involves a review of existing therapeutic alternatives for the patented drug and will also take the view of doctors and patients. “We have done similar research for Januvia which has been recently launched. We had consulted 200 doctors and patient groups to come to a right price for the drug in India,” said Mr. Navangul.

In India, treatment with Januvia costs around Rs 42.80 per day, while the same treatment costs about $5 (Rs 200) in the US. Though medicos have suggested that treatment with Januvia’s therapeutic equivalent (such as sulphonylurea) costs not more than Rs 15-20 per day, a senior diabetes specialist Subhankar Chowdhury says, “Januvia is much better than existing drugs and has significant lower risk of side effects.”

According to analysts, Merck’s strategy of launching patented drugs at a much lower cost in India than their global price may mark a differential pricing system for such drugs in India. Says Mr Navangul, “It’s a much hyped and false concern that patented drugs are necessarily costly than generics. Our pricing will be such that it will provide value to the patients.”

Other than the dyslipidimia and obesity drugs, Merck is planning to roll out two vaccines in India—a cervical cancer vaccine and rotavirus vaccine. Merck has five drugs in its current product portfolio in India.  Plans to initiate disease management programs in India to increase awareness and better drug compliance among patients are also on the anvil.