Big pharmaceutical companies have long relied on patents to give them a competitive advantage. But in recent years the industry has found itself on the edge of a patent cliff. In 2012, patent expirations threatened $55 billion in pharmaceutical sales, according to EvaluatePharma.
Facing potentially huge sales losses, drug companies are turning to devices as a means of protecting their portfolios. One strategy they’re using is differentiating their products by creating drug-device combinations. The market for drug-device combination products is expected to grow nearly 8% annually until 2019, according to Transparency Market Research. Another tactic involves diversifying their businesses with device divisions.
A prime example of a pharmaceutical company that’s encroaching on the device business is Sanofi. The French drug maker, which sells the Lantus brand of insulin, began making blood glucose monitors back in 2011 and last year launched a drug-device combination product, the Auvi-Q, that walks users through delivery of an epinephrine shot.
Other companies adopting this strategy include Genentech, which entered into a licensing agreement with eye-care device maker ForSight Vision4 in 2010 to develop the company’s investigational drug-delivery device to deliver its Lucentis drug, and Canadian drug maker Valeant Pharmaceuticals International, which acquired U.S.-based device firm Solta Medical in 2013.
With patent expirations threatening another $66 billion in pharmaceutical sales next year, expect the line between drugs and devices, as well as pharmaceutical and device companies, to continue to blur.
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|Meet more agents of change in medtech at the MD&M East tradeshow and conference  in New York City June 9–12, 2014.|
[image courtesy of HOLOHOLOLAND/FREEDIGITALPHOTOS.NET]