AstraZeneca Plc is not planning any major changes to its investments in India after a recent court ruling backed a law viewed as weakening patent protections, Chief Executive David Brennan said on Tuesday.
AstraZeneca's position contrasts with that of Novartis, whose chief executive, Daniel Vasella, said in August that the firm would probably move large investments elsewhere after the ruling, which rejected a Novartis challenge to a law that denies patents for minor improvements to known drugs.
I think that will set some tone for how people operate, but it hasn't caused us to go back and take a major shift of our operations there, AstraZeneca's Brennan told reporters.
I think over time that they'll continue to get challenged on it a bit, but it hasn't caused us to say we're going to do anything differently.
AstraZeneca in January announced a $15 million investment in a new process research and development facility in India, where chemists draw up recipes for new medicines. The facility joined the group's existing centre for TB drug discovery, which was established in 2002.
The recent ruling would also not have any specific impact in terms of ramping up the Anglo-Swedish drugmaker's investments in China, Brennan said.
We've got a longer-term view of what China can be that we started investing in a few years ago, so India's not there yet, he said.
Brennan was speaking after the launch of AstraZeneca's first clinical pharmacology unit in China, in partnership with a local university hospital, at which it will carry out clinical trials and safety evaluations.
It already has a $100 million research centre in Shanghai and a $170 million manufacturing base in Wuxi, in eastern Jiangsu province.
Brennan said that the company would be opportunistic about new investments in China, where it saw sales grow 25 percent from a year earlier in the first half, but he declined to estimate how much it was planning to invest.
We're looking to reallocate resources to places where there are opportunities for growth, and this is one of them, he said, adding that research and development and marketing and sales could be areas for further investments in China.
R&D would probably be the next big formal step, he said.
Greater participation by its China operations in clinical trials would hopefully allow AstraZeneca to better identify the impact of particular drugs on Asian populations, so as to potentially better tailor them to those groups, Brennan said.
He added that recent scares over the safety of Chinese food and other products had not been a cause for increased concern by the company, since it had already put in place rigorous monitoring to assure the safety of inputs.
Brennan declined to comment specifically on whether he saw as imminent a challenge to its patent for the cholesterol drug Crestor.
Citigroup analysts said last week that five generic firms had filed so-called Drug Master Files with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which often precedes an application to market a generic drug.
We will follow it, and if they file, we will challenge them, he said.