Bayer says that the basis of its business model is innovation and it will keep the R&D spend around the 3.10 billion euro mark next year, while marketing costs will rise as it aims to get the much-touted bloodthinner Xarelto ready for global launches.

Speaking in Leverkusen last week, the German group’s new chairman Marijn Dekkers said that his biggest task “is to strengthen our innovation capability – and to improve the marketing of our innovations”. Just a few weeks after Bayer announced 4,500 positions are to go, though some 2,500 will be created by 2012 (mainly in emerging markets), he claimed that “I am doing all I can to ensure our resources are used as effectively as possible for this purpose – and not for superfluous activities”.

Around 67% of the R&D budget goes on healthcare and the pharmaceutical pipeline currently has more than 50 projects in all clinical phases, with 22 in Phase III. By far the most important is Xarelto (rivaroxaban) which is currently approved in Europe for venous thromboembolism prevention in adults following elective hip or knee replacement surgery.

However Bayer is hoping that the big bucks from the anticoagulant will come through an approval for the reduction of the risk in stroke. Last month, data from the 14,000-plus patient ROCKET AF trial revealed that Xarelto was superior to the gold standard warfarin, with less risk of bleeding, in protecting against stroke among patients with atrial fibrillation.

Dr Dekkers said the company is now “pressing ahead at full steam” with the registration applications for stroke prevention in AF, a market estimated to be worth 10 billion euros annually and Xarelto could net 2 billion euros of that. He went on to say the drug is “ a good example of the high level of investment and risk that we bear in our business”.

Together with US partner Johnson & Johnson, which is sharing the development costs, more than 2 billion euros will have been spent on the project. When asked by PharmaTimes World News whether its sales forecast may be a little optimistic given that Boehringer Ingelheim’s rival drug Pradaxa (dabigatran etexilate), got a stroke approval in the USA in October, Wolfgang Plischke, the Bayer board member responsible for innovation, technology and environment is confident of its place in the market, saying that the entire data package for Xarelto “is out of the ordinary”. Also it is taken once-daily rather than twice like Pradaxa.

The other key treatments in late-stage trials include VEGF-Trap Eye for retinal diseases, which Dr Plitschke believes will have peak sales of between 250-500 million euros. The firm also has high hopes for riociguat (pulmonary hypertension), regorafenib (colorectal cancer) and alpharadin (colorectal cancer).

When asked by PharmaTimes World News whether Bayer will look at marketing alliances for these products, Dr Dekkers did not rule such pacts out but said the firm’s expertise in oncology in particular suggests it can go it alone. He added that “marketing is part of innovation and while we are developing these high-quality products, they also need to be sold”.