ImageGerman drugmaker Boehringer Ingelheim (BI) has started discussions with Cipla for a drug supply agreement that could see the Indian company supply generic drugs to the $17-billion German company for two of its drugs, including one of its best sellers. The Indian company is also discussing similar deals with other global pharma majors, said two persons familiar with the matter.

As per an industry official, the discussions are for two hypertension drugs — Telmisartan and a combination drug of Amlodipine and Telmisartan. The BI website says it sells Telmisartan under the brand Mircadis. As per reports the drug rakes in sales of over $1.5 billion for the company annually and its patent will expire in 2014.
Pfizer lost the patent for Norvasc (Amlodipine) in 2007. There has already been reports about Cipla being in talks with Pfizer for a drug supply deal.

When contacted, the BI spokesperson said its drug Twynsta is the company’s only Amlodipine combination (Amlodipine and Telmisartan) medicine. But she declined to comment on the tie-up with Cipla, “The company has and will seek international partnering opportunities in development, manufacturing, marketing and distribution based on innovation and therapeutic progress. BI does not disclose information on plans regarding our product portfolio or future or past co-operations with other companies.”

Amar Lulla, Cipla’s joint MD also declined to comment on the development.

The German company, the world’s largest family-owned drugmaker, sells Micardis in 84 countries, including the US, Japan and European countries independently or through partnerships with Astellas Pharma in Japan, Bayer HealthCare in Europe and GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) in selected markets. For Twynsta, it got the US drug regulator’s approval in October and has started selling the drug in the US in four dosages.

As per associate director of PricewaterhouseCoopers’s Sujay Shetty who tracks the sector, “Cipla has enormous expertise in formulations and proven quality assurance. If the supply is for formulations of drugs still under patent, it’s a feather in the cap for Cipla.”

Global innovator pharma majors are expected to see a drop in sales in the next 2-3 years because the patent on their top selling drugs would expire and they don’t have a strong research pipeline to supplement the revenue loss. Companies such as Pfizer, GSK and Sanofi Aventis have recently entered into drug supply alliances or acquired Indian company to access low-cost generics and scale up their business in fast growing emerging markets.

Confirming the talks, the second person added: “These are patented drugs of BI and they can decide when the drug supply can start. Cipla already makes and sells the combination drugs of the medicines in the Indian market.”