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Continued from previous……

When I started working in Pharma in 1975, MNCs were supreme. They had the products, the knowledge, the resources, the prestige and eventually, the business. I remember we had some target, but we never worried about it, for two reasons. One, the targets were small, and the growth expectation used to be modest; two, the targets were achieved without any fuss. In 1975, the generic scheme introduced by the then Health Minister late Sheikh Rasheed, was the subject of universal criticism. The companies never liked it and the doctors also did not accept it because it led to easy switching of prescriptions. The change in policy was not yet talked about but the existing policy was favorite punching bag.

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Please note that the MNCs were not afraid of losing business to Local Pharma. There were few generics offered by Local Pharma. I believe the MNCs thought about the future and apprehended that the continuation of generic policy will encourage growth of Local Pharma in the next few years.

Anyway, the generic policy died earlier than was expected. In April 1976, new Drug Act was passed which brought the brands back.

Drug Act 1976 upheld the BRANDS, much to the satisfaction of MNCs. For the next about ten years, Brands and MNCs were happy together. In 1980s, Local Pharma started with ‘Branded Generics’. Prior to this, Local Pharma produced generics of very old molecules, mostly by generic names. Branded generic was a new concept. It was a generic product but branded like a brand should be. Marketing and Promotion was to establish the ‘Brand’. This was successfully done by some companies. In my view, it was the first major milestone among the many milestones which generic industry later achieved. Up to this time, the branded generics were introduced for the innovator brands which were available in the market for a long time.

I would like to divide the development of generic industry in three phases.

Phase I. Introduction of generics of old, established innovator brands

This was early 1980s. Branded generics for old, established brands were introduced. Examples were generics of Velosef (cephradine), Voltaren (diclofenac sodium), Vibramycin (doxycycline), (hyoscine compound), Flagyl (metronidazole), Brufen (ibuprofen), and few others. These brands were huge in volume and the branded generics anticipated that even a tiny share would be good for them.

Two factors were worth noting.

One, branded generics attacked large brands like a pack of wolves. They gnawed at it from various sides and tore away small pieces. Initially, the big brand took it lightly. They thought they were beyond any kind of serious attack. When they realized the seriousness of situation, they could not do much about it. The damage had set in. Big brands did not die because the force of branded generics pushed the market boundaries to increase the overall size of market. This is also debatable to say that branded generics stalled the growth of innovator brands. Innovator brands would never have been able to expand the market alone.

Two, Branded generics were introduced for the innovator brands which were easy-to-sell and had short term treatment. It was the strategy of hit and run. Many of these did not even need prescription to sell.

To be continued……


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