Sun Pharma says will continue investments on specialty business despite gradual take-off

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India’s largest drugmaker Sun Pharma said it will continue to invest on speciality business, as it focuses on commercializing its speciality drugs in new geographies, investing on clinical studies for getting approvals for indications and investing on additional studies to compare its drugs to that of competitors.

The investment in research and development (R&D) in Q2FY20 is Rs 488 crore or 6.1 percent of sales for Sun Pharma. Investments on speciality alone were 24 percent of total R&D spend.

The company plans to end FY20 with R&D investment of 8-9 percent of total sales.

“The R&D spend enables the development of future product pipeline, including speciality and differentiated products,” said Dilip Shanghvi, MD of Sun Pharma said.

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“It can be Japan-related or China-related studies. It can also be new indications for Ilumya, additional studies establishing the benefit of Cequa over currently marketed products (by competitors). I think the idea is to help doctors see how our products can benefit their patients more effectively,” Shanghvi said.

Sun Pharma has invested around $1 billion in the speciality business in the US. It built its speciality business through a series of acquisitions over the years. Sun Pharma is pinning hopes on speciality division to create a new lever of growth to the company when the cash cow US business is facing steep pricing pressure.

However, things on speciality front, have been so far a mixed bag due to competition, higher marketing and distribution expenses and gradual off-take in prescriptions of its products.

The global revenues from speciality portfolio remained flat on a sequential basis at $91 million across all markets in Q2FY20.

The company has so far launched five speciality assets Bromsite to treat eye pain, Odomzo for skin cancer, Yona – prostate cancer, Ilumya (IL-23) – psoriasis, Xelpros – for ocular hypertension and Levulan, a skin product from DUSA acquisition.

The company said Ilumya sales for the quarter had increased as compared to the June quarter, but seasonality in Absorica and Levulan has led to the flat growth.

“We continue to add patients and increase the doctor coverage for Ilumya . Prescriptions for Ilumya continue to gain gradual traction,” said Abhay Gandhi as CEO of North America at Sun Pharma.

Gandhi said the company will continue to invest in promoting an Ilumya including the direct consumer promotion.

The company recently launched Cequa for dry disease in the US.

“This is an important launch for us and add one more product to our speciality portfolio. Although it’s been just a few days into the month of October when we have launched Cequa, we are enthused and happy with the response that we are seeing from the doctors. Odomzo continues to gradually gain market share, as we put in more effort towards increasing prescriptions. Overall, we expect traction in a US speciality revenues going forward,” Gandhi said.
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