UCB: Winning In The Pharma Industry By Focusing On The U.S.
In 2000, I sat in a hotel ballroom at a national meeting for my new employer, Organon — a little-known European pharmaceutical company based in the Netherlands. The company’s U.S. president, Hans Vemer, M.D., Ph.D., compared success in the pharmaceutical industry to playing tennis; in order to be successful, you need to play where the ball is. According to Vemer, the United States was “where the ball was” back then. Even now, 13 years later, a successful pharmaceutical company still needs to be successful in the states.
The U.S. remains the largest single-country pharmaceutical market in the world, worth an estimated $300 billion. The European Union, consisting of 27 countries, is second, and China, at an estimated $50 billion, only recently surpassed Japan for third place. And while much has been written about the future of pharma being driven by efficacious drug development in emerging and frontier markets, the fact remains that in order to have the opportunity to capitalize on those future possibilities, present-day success in the developed world, in particular the United States, remains a necessity. Nowhere is this more evident than when you take a close look at the recent success of the 36th largest pharmaceutical company in the world, Belgium-based UCB. Roch Doliveux, UCB’s CEO, will tell you, “As a CEO, you have to decide on which patient group you can make the most impact.” For UCB, having an impact on treating diseases in the U.S. is having a positive impact on the company’s bottom line.