Teva Seeking Deals to Build Drug Portfolio

Pharmaceutical giant braces for a slump in sales of top-selling multiple sclerosis drug Copaxone.

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Israel's Teva Pharmaceutical Industries, the world's biggest producer of generic drugs, is looking to step up the pace of deal-making as it braces for a slump in sales of top-selling multiple sclerosis drug Copaxone.

"There is a lot of activity in building the pipeline and the future portfolio," Eyal Desheh, the company's acting chief executive, said on Wednesday.

The former finance head took over as CEO on an interim basis following the abrupt departure of Jeremy Levin at the end of October, after a clash with Chairman Phillip Frost that left the company's direction and decision-making process in doubt.

The upheaval comes at a critical time for Teva since its high-margin branded medicine Copaxone is expected to face cheap generic competition from May 2014 or soon after.

As a result, the group's performance in 2014 will be particularly closely watched by investors.

A company spokeswoman said Teva expected to give its financial outlook for 2014 on December 10, following previously announced plans for a program of cost savings involving the loss of 5,000 jobs, or 10 percent of the workforce.

Apparent internal forecasts published in a newspaper last month, suggesting a steep decline in net profit in 2014, were described by the company at the time as incomplete.

Despite the turmoil, Desheh told a Financial Times pharmaceuticals conference in London that Teva had "a very strong and clear strategy".

Priorities for the company included moving into more complex generic drugs, expanding in emerging markets and growing its business in over the counter (OTC) medicines, which are sold in a joint venture with Procter & Gamble.

Teva is also building a line-up of so-called new therapeutic entities (NTEs), which include new uses, formulations, delivery methods or combinations of existing products.

It announced on Wednesday that 15 such NTEs had entered its development pipeline since the launch of the program a year ago.

This development work will be complemented by outside deals. Desheh said the company would like to increase the tempo of deal-making but that finding the right acquisitions or product licensing transactions was not simple.

"These things don't happen every day. There are a handful of good opportunities and you have to pick the best," he said.

Desheh also said that developing copies of complex biotech medicines, known as biosimilars, was proving more difficult than initially expected.

These products have been touted as a major new growth area because patents on many injectable biologic treatments are now expiring. However, uptake so far has been patchy and several companies have run into snags in development.

"We've all learned that it is not as easy as the industry thought - it always takes longer, it always costs more and the success rate is not as high as we all thought," he said.

Making pills at Teva’s plant at its headquarters in Jerusalem.Credit: Bloomberg

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