Q&A: Alok Sonig highlights Dr. Reddy’s efforts to improve access to medicine
Alok Sonig said that Princeton, N.J.-based Dr. Reddy’s has made its mark by offering affordable and innovative medicines to people who need them. Drug Store News sat down with Sonig, the company’s CEO of developed markets, to discuss upcoming launches from Dr. Reddy’s and the industry overall.
Drug Store News: Tell us about Dr. Reddy’s and its history.
Alok Sonig: Dr. K. Anji Reddy founded Dr. Reddy’s in 1984 with a mission to ensure that good health can be a reality for everyone. What started off as a small company eventually evolved into the major global pharmaceutical presence it is today.
We are proud of the many milestones that make up our history. From being the first Indian pharma company to export Norfloxacin and Ciprofloxacin to Europe and the Far East to becoming the first
Asia Pacific pharmaceutical company, outside Japan, to be listed on the New York Stock Exchange.
Importantly, Dr. Reddy’s has never lost sight of its founding principle: to provide patients with access to affordable and innovative medicine.
DSN: How about now? The company is introducing many new items this year. Tell us about them.
AS: Dr. Reddy’s has a deep-rooted belief that “Good Health Can’t Wait.” As a company, we focus on bringing affordable medicines within reach of patients who need them.
Currently, we are awaiting FDA approval or feedback on more than 100 ANDAs. Additionally, we expect to launch nearly 20 new products in the U.S. market in the next 12-to-18 months. Many of these products are expected to be complex or difficult to make, and they will fall in the limited-competition space. These launches are in multiple disease categories, including, but not limited to, anti-addiction, multiple sclerosis and female contraception.
We are also growing significantly in the oncology space, with the introduction of several complex injectable products. To prepare for this, we are developing great relationships with oncology treatment centers and hospitals.
DSN: How are you supporting these products to the trade?
AS: We have a very close relationship with our trade partners and are excited about the prospect of bringing new products to our customers by strengthening our relationship with them.
As part of our strategy, a key area of focus is building a reliable and flexible supply chain for our products. This commitment allows us to handle situations, like demand surges, by helping our trade partner serve patients with uninterrupted supply of medicines. In fact, during the past year, we were awarded the Cardinal Health Supply Chain Excellence Award. It was truly an honor from an outstanding supplier.
DSN: The generics category is evolving at retail. How do retailers maximize their profits from this category?
AS: Although our generic prescription products are dispensed by pharmacy only, we have a strong and growing OTC division that caters to consumers through all major retailers. We currently market OTC products in various segments, including allergy, antacid, analgesia and smoking cessation.
In fact, we recently launched Levocetirizine dihydrochloride tablets in the U.S. market. This generic version of Xyzal was a first-to-market launch for Dr. Reddy’s.
DSN: How does the future look?
AS: Dr. Reddy’s is well positioned for sustained, profitable growth given our strong base business and proven capability in complex generics, with strategic investments in research and development for proprietary products and biologics. Our core business performance remains strong. Our development levers are proven, vigorously executed and continue to deliver. We will continue to make strategic investments for long-term, sustainable growth, while continuing to explore selective business integration and opportunities to augment expansion.
Alok Sonig is CEO of developed markets at Dr. Reddy’s
Lupin’s generic AndroGel gets tentative approval
The Food and Drug Administration has granted Lupin tentative approval for its generic AndroGel (testosterone gel, 1.62%). The drug is indicated as a replacement therapy in males for conditions associated with deficiency or absence of endogenous testosterone.
Lupin’s generic AndroGel will be available in a dosage strength of a 20.25 mg/1.25 gm actuation. The drug had U.S. sales of $956.9 million for the 12 months ended January 2018.
Fred’s looks to unload specialty pharmacy business
Fred’s is looking to sell its specialty pharmacy business, according to a form filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission Wednesday, the day it was meant to file its earnings for fiscal year 2017. The Memphis-based company said in the filing that its board of directors has approved the plan to sell the specialty pharmacy business, which includes three specialty-only locations. It has rescheduled its earnings report for May 4.
The filing notes that Fred’s “requires additional time to complete the accounting and reporting processes necessary to satisfy the requirement to reflect the discontinuation of its specialty pharmacy operations.” Fred’s CEO Mike Bloom, as part of the company’s December 2017 third-quarter earnings call, told analysts and investors that the company was in the midst of “a review of alternatives for the noncore assets of real estate and the specialty pharmacy business.” A spokesman for the company said the delay of its earnings report has nothing to do with the ongoing business operations. He declined to comment on whether the company has any potential suitors lined up.
Fred’s has been in the midst of a turnaround strategy in the aftermath of the scrapped acquisition of Rite Aid by Walgreens. Fred’s had been set to acquire enough divested stores to make it the third-largest drug chain in the country — but the recently completed Walgreens acquisition of 1,932 Rite Aid stores didn’t necessitate a divestment. As a result, in the first eight months of its fiscal year ended Oct. 28, 2017, the company reported a $37.3 million contribution to its $117.8 million net loss from costs associated with bank fees, financing termination fees, and professional and legal and advisory fees associated with the Rite Aid store acquisition. The company also canceled its third-quarter dividend. Since last June, Fred’s also has added two members to its board, including new chairman Heath Freeman and had two CFOs. Anto joined in February, succeeding Jason Jenne, who was appointed last July and now is CFO at True Temper Sports.
“We are aggressively executing our turnaround strategy, and we are seeing traction in both front store and pharmacy,” Bloom said on the third-quarter call. “We are not yet at the point of presenting positive quarterly comp sales and traffic improvement. However, I can tell you that we are improving month-by-month as our initiatives are yielding results.” Efforts undertaken to reduce costs included reducing its workforce and reduction of excess inventory that it leveraged into a clearance sale to drive foot traffic.
When the Rite Aid acquisition fell through last June, Bloom listed specialty pharmacy as one of the areas that would help optimize its business model alongside growing comparable-store prescriptions and driving front-store traffic. In December, Fred’s COO of pharmacy and executive vice president Timothy Liebmann noted that the evaluation was intended to assess whether to invest in it to grow or seek alternatives to capitalize on its value.
“We’re in the middle of that evaluation right now, and I think that we’re excited about the path we’re going down with this,” Liebmann said in December. “I think that if we do nothing, you run the risk of being irrelevant in the space.”