GSK Resetting Old And Building New Product Planks In India

Executive Summary

GlaxoSmithKline is looking to rebuild in India its topical antibiotic brand Neosporin, which has returned to the market after an almost two-year absence following supply issues, while a new - seemingly India-specific - thrust in prescription probiotics and momentum in vaccines are also seen driving local growth this year.

GlaxoSmithKline Pharmaceuticals Ltd. appears to have secured certain fixes to its product portfolio in India, ensuring the return of a popular antibiotic brand while also exploring a new business plank, probably India-specific for now, that builds on its existing strength in the gastrointestinal segment. 

A build-up in the vaccines space in the country is also ongoing. (Also see "Interview: Revolution At GSK India" - Scrip, 22 Apr, 2016.)

GSK appears to have set right supply issues for its topical antibiotic, Neosporin (bacitracin zinc, neomycin sulfate, polymyxin B sulfate and pramoxine), putting the product back on the Indian market after a gap of almost two years. 

Neosporin had been hit by active pharmaceutical ingredient supply issues, but the UK multinational indicated that the product has become available again since this January and that it would attain "historic inventory levels" in the coming months.

Asked whether competition had cashed in on the popular brand's absence, GSK India told Scrip: "While Neosporin was out of sight it was definitely not out of mind. IMS prescription audit indicated a modest prescription erosion of Neosporin and subsequent share gain by competition. Our endeavor is to reach out to our HCPs [healthcare professionals] and channel partners in ensuring that patients benefit from Neosporin."

Industry sources suggest that the Neosporin range has already had a "very strong run" in terms of prescriptions upon its comeback, underscoring its potential to regain its leadership position of 2014.

Currently only four out of five presentations of the product – Neosporin 5g antibiotic ointment for skin and ophthalmic use, Neosporin 20g antibiotic skin ointment, Neosporin 10g antibiotic powder and Neosporin H ointment with hydrocortisone – are available on the Indian market.

Brands such as Neosporin, Zinetac (ranitidine), Calpol (paracetamol), Betnesol (betamethasone) and Zentel (albendazole) have been a mainstay for GSK in the mass market segment in India, where the firm has held a dominant market leadership positions over the past few years, and Neosporin's return is expected to add further traction in this segment.

Prescription Probiotic

While backing older products, GSK is also building on its strength in the Indian gastrointestinal segment with an entry into the non-traditional space of probiotic supplements.

The company recently introduced EnteroPlus, a new prescription probiotic food supplement in capsule and sachet form, which it says has been well received, "beating the launch benchmarks" in the gastro segment in all of India. On a year-to-date March 2017 basis, EnteroPlus reflects as the best new launch in the Indian pharmaceutical market on value sales basis, GSK told Scrip, although it gave no specific figures.

"We became the pioneers in acid peptic disorder management 30 years ago with the launch of our brand Zinetac. EnteroPlus too is an innovator's strain LGG (lactobacillus rhamnosus GG) from Chr Hansen, Denmark introduced for the very first time in India as a probiotic capsule and sachet by GSK with the intent to bolster our gastro portfolio," GSK explained.

The gastrointestinal segment is the third largest therapy area in the Indian pharmaceutical market in value terms after anti-infectives and the cardiac categories. Data from AIOCD AWACS, a market research agency that tracks retail sales, indicates that the GI segment grew 11.1% (moving annual total for January 2017).

Indications are that EnteroPlus garnered estimated sales of around INR10m in its initial month, with AIOCD AWACS also terming the product the "biggest launch" by a multinational in India as per details in its January 2017 data.

On whether EnteroPlus has potential to go over-the-counter, GSK said: "Our focus is currently on generating prescriptions."

New Vaccines

GSK also remains upbeat about its vaccines portfolio in India. The firm's Priorix Tetra, the country's first combination MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) and varicella vaccine, was launched in July 2016, while the meningitis vaccine Menveo is in the process of receiving the necessary regulatory approvals in India, the company said.

GSK underscored that Priorix Tetra along with Priorix (MMR) and Varilrix (varicella) offer "considerable flexibility of usage" to vaccinators in not only preventing MMR and chickenpox diseases but also in reducing the number of injections and patient visits.

Interview: GSK India's Playbook For Vaccines Dominance

By Anju Ghangurde24 Aug 2016

Deft pricing and effective physician engagement appear to have helped shape GSK's sustained dominance in the Indian self-pay vaccines market. GSK Pharmaceuticals India managing director, Annaswamy Vaidheesh, takes Scrip through some of the strategies at play including the sharp recalibration in the price of Synflorix and how the British multinational is harnessing digital technology to stay "close" to its customers... 

Read the full article here 

"GSK is aiming to achieve leadership in this category and we are pleased that the response thus far has been robust country-wide. We see good potential for our MMRV vaccination franchise," the company said.

GSK India has been a leader in the self-pay vaccines segment in India for over a decade and in an interview with Scrip last year, the firm's top brass had indicated that timing the launch right, a "dedicated and trained" field force, and "good insight" about pricing had all been vital in staying ahead of the competition. 

A calibrated pricing approach for products like Synflorix, GSK's pneumococcal conjugate vaccine, had gone "a long way" in improving access to the product, Annaswamy Vaidheesh, GlaxoSmithKline Pharmaceuticals' vice president South Asia and managing director India, said at the time. 

For the quarter ended December 2016, though, the growth of GSK India's overall vaccine portfolio was adversely impacted by 3% due to a higher prior year base that arose from the restoration of supply constraints.