GlaxoSmithKline is looking to strengthen its position in India but favours alliances rather than acquisitions.

Chief executive Andrew Witty, inaugurating a new production facility at its Nashik site in India for the manufacture of albendazole (part of a combination treatment for lymphatic filariasis), told reporters that “we are strong financially, both globally and in India, and will be looking at making deals if we see something strong and like it”. He declined to comment on rumours that the healthcare giant is looking to buy a stake in Dr Reddy’s Laboratories but said that GSK is keen on signing partnerships.

It already has a deal in place with Dr Reddy’s, signed in June last year, which gave the UK drug giant exclusive access to the latter’s portfolio and future pipeline comprising more than 100 branded pharmaceuticals across areas such as diabetes, cancer and pain management, in emerging markets. In July 2008, the firm linked up with South Africa’s Aspen and its Indian joint venture partner Strides Arcolabs to sell branded generics in emerging markets.

Mr Witty said that “we are interested in such alliances, which aim at creating shareholder value without using much cash”. He added that “there are lots of opportunities for such alliances both with Indian companies and those globally”. The CEO went on to say that India will play a larger part in the group’s R&D work and an even more prominent role in its manufacturing activities.

Meantime the new plant in Nashik will deliver an additional 300 million treatments of albendazole to be used within a World Health Organisation programme that aims to eliminate LF, also known as elephantiasis, a parasitic infection spread by mosquitoes that causes “grotesque, painful swelling of the limbs, breasts and genitals”, GSK noted that this is “the largest drug donation programme in the history of the global pharmaceutical industry”.

Since the WHO programme began in 2000, more than 1.9 billion treatments have been given to over 570 million people in 48 of the 83 countries with endemic LF. Mr Witty said that 30 years ago, scientific breakthroughs led to the eradication of smallpox and “today we have hope that…LF can be consigned to the history books”.