Pfizer targets SmithKline with Shanta’s Hep B vaccine
Pfizer India has entered into a co–marketing tie up with Shanta Biotech to market the latter Hepatitis B vaccine under the brand name Hepashield. Shanta Biotech markets the vaccine under the brand name ‘Shanvac’.
The $16.9 bn (Rs 726.70 bn) Pfizer Inc. is next only to Glaxo–Smithkline in the global pharma sweepstakes. With the takeover of $ 9 bn (Rs 387 bn) Warner Lambert, it has emerged as the largest US company. In India however, six brands viz. Becousules, Lorex, Protinex, Dolonex, Terramycin and Minipress XL account for 80% of the company’s sales.
The key impact of the co–marketing deal is the fact that competition within Hep B segment will become considerably tighter. Smithkline Pharma has by far been the leader in this segment with its brand Engerix B dominating the segment, but with Pfizer’s brand name attached to Hepashield, doctors would now be more comfortable recommending Hepashield.
Pfizer has more than 700 sales representatives. It has strengthened its field force in the past two years by adding another 200 representatives. This would enable it to market Hepashield as effectively as SmithKline markets Engerix B.
Besides, Wockhardt has also recently launched a Hepatitis B vaccine Biovac B. This is in collaboration with a German company Rhein Biotech GmbH. Hoechst Marion Roussel is also planning an entry into the segment.
The main disadvantage for Smithkline however, is the fact that the company still imports the dosages from its parent’s Belgium plant while Shanta Bitoech manufactures the vaccine in India which would not only enable it to price its vaccine a shade below those of Engerix–B but also enjoy higher margins.
This is because last year the government imposed a 38.5% import duty on vaccines, which affected SmithKline’s margins since it did not raise its vaccine prices. The company is unlikely to raise prices this year too and hence the erosion in margins is expected to continue.
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