Dear Colleagues! This is Asrar Qureshi’s Blog Post #596 for Pharma Veterans. Pharma Veterans welcome sharing of knowledge and wisdom by Veterans for the benefit of Community at large. Pharma Veterans Blog is published by Asrar Qureshi onWordPress, the top blog site. Please email to firstname.lastname@example.org for publishing your contributions here.
February 2022 marks my completing 47 years of working in Pharma Industry. Allah be praised. I am still working. The first half of my working career was spent in Multinational companies, and the latter half in the Local Pharma, making me well-versed with both innovators and generics markets. I also had the opportunity to work in business as well as operations.
My journey of near half century is also the journey of Pharma Industry in Pakistan. Great changes have occurred in this time and a lot could be written about it. In my blogs, which were started about four and a half years ago, I have covered several topics related to Pakistan Pharma Industry. This multi-part series shall do and review the SWOT – Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats – of the industry as a whole.
Stakeholder 3 – Manufacturers – Continued…
Pakistan has around 750 Local Pharma manufacturing units. Many of these are not doing well, which is evident from the fact that 97% market share is held by 100 companies, while 650 companies are fighting for only 3% market. Under such compulsion, smaller manufacturers tend to deviate from rules and engage in undesirable/ illegal practices. The responsibility for allowing small scale manufacturers to operate also lies with DRAP. Rather than encouraging installation of larger, better equipped manufacturers, they have continued to encourage small units to operate who do not have the financial capability to follow current practices.
Several Pharma companies have gone through the same drab routine. The entrepreneur somehow puts up the manufacturing unit with whatever resources he has. By the time he is done, he has no money left for production. At that time, they look for investors who would give them money for production. A new kind of investors class has emerged who are already doing bulk business. They invest in production, take the entire stock, and sell it through their own channels. You may call them “Pharma Sharks’. Some other manufacturers who have money for production do not have further resources for marketing. They look for ‘contract marketers’ which are more popularly called ‘Franchisers’. The Franchisers take the rights for a certain area or region or entire country for a set of products. They buy at low prices and market in their own ways to sell at higher prices. They generate money to spend on marketing and for their own living.
Stakeholders 4 – Marketers
Marketing has evolved greatly in the Pharma industry. I dug some 100 years old posters out and it was interesting to see that many remedies were advertised through posters. The posters had interesting claims, some preposterous even, but they were made colorful and had many slogans written on them. This was the beginning of Pharma Industry in which self-proclaimed doctors and pharmacists opened apothecaries or pharmacies. They attended various exhibitions and brought their goods for selling. Their selling style was like our showmen who would gather people and tell them stories, pull out snakes from their bags and then made them laugh. These street doctors made tall claims about their potions and concoctions and people fell for them. All this was happening in the USA and across Europe. You may call it the earliest ‘Marketing’. At its heart, Pharma marketing is still the same, only the forms and channels have changed.
After the unfortunate events of late 1950s and early 1960s related to Thalidomide-caused limbless births across Europe, the need became urgent to regulate promotion of medicines. The regulatory agencies reinforced themselves and came up with new and more stringent rules for Pharmaceutical Marketing and Sales. The regulations have since been evolving and now encompass all areas of Pharma business.
Pharmaceutical companies invested time and money on research and came up with new products for various diseases. Medical science was working on diagnosing and managing new diseases, they needed medicines and Pharma research strived to fill this need. The collaboration worked wonderfully and is still working. At times, it becomes a nexus of evil, but largely it is good.
Pharma business has crossed a trillion US dollars worldwide, and it is growing. COVID19 has added many billions to the already flourishing business. Big Pharma is the term used for the top Pharma companies. These are mainly located in the US. Much has been written about Big Pharma, their tactics and tentacles, their clout and power, their collusion with doctors, and their exploitation of public. It is said that Big Pharma have the power to change governments, if their interests are likely to be compromised.
Pharma Marketing has evolved and is among the finest in the world in its scope, variety, quality, effectiveness, and finesse. Great efforts are made to strengthen marketing of new products which may start several years before the drug comes on the market. It continues till the drug becomes a blockbuster and rakes in billions. Despite all this effort, not every drug becomes a blockbuster; many drugs fail, are withdrawn and pulled off the market. But Big Pharma has huge resources, and they continue investing in new research. Big Pharma is the blessing and bane of the world: blessing because they spend a lot and work hard to bring most modern and effective remedies; bane because they exploit and fleece the unsuspecting public.
In the next post, we shall discuss marketers’ status in Pakistan.
To be Continued……
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