Sector News

Merck hands over China joint venture to partner Simcere Pharma

February 10, 2015
Life sciences
Merck is bowing out of its Chinese joint venture with Simcere Pharmaceutical. Merck forged the partnership in 2011 as a way to build up in the fast-growing market, with a focus on branded generic drugs.
 
Merck will hand over control to Simcere, a company spokeswoman told FiercePharma, as part of a shift in strategy at the joint venture. The venture, known as SMSD, “will now focus on local innovative and mature products, serving the local market,” she said in an email. “The operation will be managed by Simcere Pharmaceutical Group in this new capacity.”
 
The changes are designed to “better meet challenges posed by the rapidly changing external environment,” the spokeswoman said.
 
Under the 2011 deal, each company handed over pharma assets to the JV, with Merck holding a majority 51% stake and Simcere claiming the rest. Among the drugs Merck contributed were its diabetes blockbuster Januvia, its now-off-patent statin drug Zocor and cardio med Cozaar.
 
The Merck spokeswoman didn’t say whether the company’s ownership stake in SMSD would change, or whether it would pull any products out of the deal. She did suggest that rejigging the partnership was part of Merck’s overall restructuring. “Pharmaceutical companies are seeking transformation and reform, with a focus on their priority areas,” she noted.
 
Merck has been remaking itself by selling off businesses, including its consumer health unit, which went to Bayer last year for $14 billion.
 
One of the JV’s stated goals was spreading its products beyond major cities. The spokeswoman says the partnership succeeded. “Driven by the goal of improving medical accessibility, SMSD has built up multiple promotion channels and platforms to serve the China market, covering areas from the eastern seaboard to inland China, from developed cities to villages,” she said.
 
China’s sales and marketing channels have changed rapidly, the spokeswoman said, and e-channels continue to expand. “At the same time, SMSD has established a comparatively mature, professional, compliant team,” she said. “They have delivered quality and mature brands, especially in the areas of cardiovascular diseases and metabolic diseases to patients to help overcome ever-increasing chronic disease challenges in China.”
 
Merck’s pharmaceutical sales in China hit $1.2 billion in 2014, up 13% from $1.1 billion in 2013. Overall, Merck sales grew 14% there last year.
 
By EJ Lane
 

Related News

September 18, 2020

Eli Lilly, Amgen join forces to scale production of COVID-19 antibody cocktails

Life sciences

Months of fervid research have whittled away most potential options to treat patients with COVID-19, a group of antibody cocktails still hold promise. Eli Lilly believes so strongly in its contender that it’s […]

September 16, 2020

Takeda unveils new Boston R&D manufacturing center for cell therapy pipeline push

Life sciences

Japanese drugmaker Takeda has trumpeted its plan in recent years to cut billions of dollars in costs and pivot around oncology and rare diseases. A key part of that strategy […]

September 15, 2020

AstraZeneca, Oxford restart stalled COVID-19 test as Pfizer ramps up trial numbers for its vaccine

Life sciences

Just under a week after it stopped its key phase 3 pandemic vaccine test, AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford have been given the green light to restart in the […]