As many pharmaceutical companies nervously watch the beginnings of a major overhaul of healthcare in the USA, which will see more promotion of generics just as their key products prepare to slip off the patent cliff, Germany’s Bayer is remarkably calm about the situation.

When asked by PharmaTimes World News at the company’s press conference in Leverkusen, Germany this week about the effect the proposals set out by President Obama will have on the firm, Bayer chairman Werner Wenning said that moves to push generics will put pressure on innovative drugmakers but “we are in a relatively positive position.” Bayer’s focus on specialties means that the company’s perceived weakness on the primary care market in the USA is now a strength and while rivals face the loss of patent protection on drugs currently worth billions of dollars, the German firm is not going to suffer much.

Arthur Higgins, head of Bayer HealthCare, expanded on the point, telling that while a number of pharmaceutical firms rely on 50%-60% of their revenues on the US market, that figure is about 30% for Bayer. However, of that 30%, much of the drugs it sells there are not reimbursed anyway, such as its oral contraceptive franchises.

Mr Higgins is concerned however by what he sees as governments looking to penalise the pharmaceutical sector in their attempts to control healthcare costs. “It makes sense to support strong industries,” he said, and “if we look at pharma as a cost and not a value, we have a problem”.

Speaking about generics,Mr Higgins confirmed that Bayer will not be bidding for the likes of Ratiopharm and Actavis which are up for sale, adding that the oral generic market “is not attractive for us” as pricing is a problem and “we can only make money if we innovate”. He did say, however, that branded generics in emerging markets is an area worth exploring, as is the area of biogenerics. In particular, Mr Higgins believes that Bayer could become a major player in what he calls “biobetters”, ie improving biologics in terms of delivery and dosing.

Noting that Bayer has been reducing its reliance on the US market over the last five years, Mr Higgins told PharmaTimes World News that the company will increase its efforts at growing its presence in the emerging markets, notably in China where it is the number one healthcare firm. He also echoed Mr Wenning’s view that a big acquisition is not on the cards, noting that “nobody rewards size, we don’t see any value in bulking up”.

Mr Higgins is keen, however, in increasing the number of academic collaborations that Bayer has, especially in Germany. He stressed that these arrangements should be seen as complementary to the company’s internal research efforts. By Kevin Grogan in Leverkusen