Five minutes at CPhI worldwide with …
CO/PH: How is Rivopharm going?
Piero Poli: We had a constant growth in the last 12 years, from a 8 million Swiss Francs turnover to a 80 million Euro turnover for the whole group of companies, forecasted for 2018. This year we will close at around 50 million Euro. This growth is due to both, an organic and constant expansion of our products’ portfolio and the acquisition of the Teva divestment baskets, imposed by the anti-trust commission after the Actavis-Teva acquisition.
During the years, we have always invested in R&D and the revamping of the factory about 10 to 15 % of our turnover, and we will keep this value as a standard for the next years, too.
CO/PH: Do you only deal with generics?
PP: Mostly. But we also do some OTCs and we acquired a company in Lithuania that commercializes nutraceuticals, food supplements and medical devices as well.
CO/PH: I get the idea acquisitions are important in your strategy.
PP: Actually our growth is mostly organic. We progressively grew with our R&D sister company, Developharma, and, in 2013, we founded from scratch a company called Rivopharm UK. In order to set up all the authorizations and to have the first products with the Rivopharm UK’s livery, it took us a bit more than one year, with a financial investment that is similar to the target companies we have acquired. We may say that we are not buying companies, but rather we are buying the time to market, knowing that, by starting from scratch, the level of investment is almost the same. Our strategy is to acquire companies with their pipelines that due to historical or company strategy are considered “on hold” and to revamp them with both our products and licensed ones. This gives to my organization the possibility to cover a large number of potential patients, giving enough flexibility to the acquired subsidiaries.
CO/PH: What are your technological capabilities?
PP: We do mainly oral solid formulations. For everything else -synthesis or other formulations- we rely on CMOs. We produce about 3 billion capsules every year, and in solids we offer a bit of everything: from delayed to immediate release, delivery in a precise point of the gastro-intestinal tract, and so on.
CO/PH: Geographically, where is the wind going for you?
PP: We export in more than 50 countries but our main focus, naturally, is Europe. We cover over one third of the European population with our affiliates. Of course the US market is a growing and important market for us, but we are not directly present, as I said, the core business is and remains Europe.
CO/PH: How do a generics producer see the IP landscape in pharma?
PP: As generic producers, we are a bit the “bad boys” in the market. We scout for molecules that are going to lose IP protection -usually a few years in advance- and we always have to move around the various umbrella/repurposing protections that inevitably get attached to them. Patent offices are every year more careful and rigorous. The market is more and more regulated, but to complain is pointless: after all, this is a system that we, as an industry, have built. If I were on the other side of the barricades, trying to protect a molecule, I would honestly do the same as they do! On some of our products with highly complex manufacturing we even applied for manufacturing patents ourselves, after all.
CO/PH: What is the acceptance of generics in Europe?
PP: There are markets where it is extremely easy to substitute the branded with the generics, for example the UK. From day one, the generic molecule is poised to get a substantial market share. Less flexible markets such as Italy, Switzerland are much harder, on one hand for the culture of the population, on the other because of a different promotional structure.
CO/PH: What puts Rivopharm above the competition?
PP: We do what everyone else cannot do. We are good in finding solutions to impossible problems. There were molecules that were abandoned since 20 years, for example Racecadotril, where we are almost the only generic producer, or Nicorandil, where we were the first to enter the market after 20 years.
CO/PH: What about CPhI 2017?
PP: For us, much more sparkling than the previous years! I do not know if it is the position of our stand, or if the event logistics has something to do with it, but we had many more people than before coming to our booth. I want to avoid a fully pre-scheduled agenda, honestly, even if at CPhI it is not easy to do that. Some of our collaborators have a full agenda, but others are kept free to look at new opportunities and projects. We definitely cannot complain!