INDIA – Sun Pharma, India’s giant drugmaker, the company is looking for possible in-licensing opportunities and even acquisitions to bolster its global specialty business, Economic Times reports, citing the company’s top executive.

In FY21, sales of its top brand Ilumya, which is used to treat plaque psoriasis, reached US$143 million. Specialty drugs are high-priced, high-complexity medicines, including biologics, used to treat complex or rare conditions.

Organic and inorganic efforts will further fuel our pipeline, potentially paving the way for more traction of specialty revenues, Sun Pharma’s group chief financial officer (CFO) CS Muralidharan told Economic Times in an interview.

Specialty drugs are high-priced, high-complexity medicines, including biologics, used to treat complex or rare conditions. They have little competition or are patent-protected.

However, unlike generic drugs, specialty products necessitate significant investment in development and commercialization, with the payoffs dependent on a variety of factors.

To generate prescriptions, companies must invest significant time and money in clinical development, regulatory filings, brand building, front-end distribution, ensuring payer coverage, and increasing sales force.

Sun Pharma is betting big on the specialty business, allocating the majority of its capital and nearly a quarter of its research and development (R&D) budget to this segment as it transitions into a specialty-driven pharma company.

Unlike other Indian drugmakers that made half-hearted attempts at building and sustaining the specialty business, Sun Pharma has made it clear that it is in for a long haul. It has already started seeing some pay-off on its bet.

Its revenues from the specialty portfolio for the first nine months of 2021-22 are higher than last fiscal’s full-year revenue of US$475 million, which was 11% higher than its specialty business in FY20.

Muralidharan stated that there has been an increase in demand for products such as Cequa, Ilumya, Levulan, Absorica, and the recently launched Winlevi. “We anticipate that our global specialty portfolio will perform well in the coming years,” he said.

Increased prescriptions for existing specialty products, as well as geographical expansion of some of the products, are expected to drive growth in the long term, along with new launches following the completion of clinical trials and obtaining regulatory approvals, according to Muralidharan.

He did not, however, provide any guidance on growth or revenue targets for the specialty portfolio.

Sun Pharma’s specialty pipeline has been built primarily through acquisitions and in-licensing in the eye care and skin therapeutic segments.

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