The future of large consumer healthcare brands will very likely be in merging traditional over-the-counter (OTC) brands and businesses with dietary supplements and nutritional products, suggests Erasmo Schutzer.
Speaking with NutraIngredients, the senior vice president of consumer health and nutrition at Lonza said that when looking at the nutraceutical and supplement industries and comparing them with the pharmaceutical industry there are several points of convergence and a few points of divergence.
One of the major points of convergence will be in new consumer healthcare businesses, while the growing interest in smart wearables, self-discovery, and personalisation will also bring integration and crossover.
“Everything starts at the consumer level with consumers becoming increasingly aware of health habits and taking care of their health and moving from reactive healthcare to preventative healthcare, which is driving the growth of nutritionals and vitamins and dietary supplements industry,” Schutzer commented. “That's a point of convergence with traditional healthcare.”
The consumer health expert suggested that there are many similarities between the way consumers buy a pharmaceutical, an OTC product, and a dietary supplement.
“When you look at many countries where the nutrition and dietary supplements industry is flourishing, it is through pharmacies. Essentially, the same distribution channels where you walk in to pick up your prescription drug, but you walk through the aisles and you see so many vitamin and dietary supplements there.”
A shift to OTC and ‘consumer health’?
He added that alongside the growth in business for nutritionals, a number of large pharmaceutical brands with traditional OTC products have also started broadening their product lines to include ranges that would have been traditionally considered a nutritional product - such as multivitamins or probiotics.
“In some markets, those nutritional ingredients are being marketed as a pharmaceutical product, with sales organisations calling on doctors, and educating doctors about the benefits of the product,” he said. “We have cases where the best-selling probiotic in some countries is marketed by a pharmaceutical company.”
However, the Lonza SVP also cautioned that the current wave of M&A activity in consumer healthcare businesses could also be seen a sign of divergence from traditional pharmaceutical businesses.
“When you look at the industry from a broader perspective, you see big traditional OTC companies changing hands, consolidating to larger consumer health groups. Which would actually suggest that the industries are heading in an opposite direction, one of separation between pharma businesses and consumer health businesses,” he said.
A recent example is Pfizer’s decision to perform a ‘strategic review of alternatives’ for its Consumer Health business, which could result in the sale or spin-off of several, or all, of its OTC brands including Centrum, Caltrate, and Emergen-C, which it acquired in 2012.
“That would suggest that big pharma would focus on core pharma research and marketing of drugs, and that is driving the direction of creating large business units focused on consumer health - large enough to be run as an independent business, or possibly inside a large pharma conglomerate.”
Formulation and personalisation are key
Schutzer told us that another key area of convergence between the pharmaceutical and nutritional industries in the science behind new delivery systems, formulations and the growing area of personalisation and ‘consumer-centric’ healthcare.
For example, historically capsules were formulated simply as a container for a drug, but as technologies have developed they have become an element of formulation in themselves – often providing a delayed release or the ability to combine otherwise unstable nutrients or active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) into one cap.
“If I think about the capsule alone, a number of new technologies that were developed for applications in pharma have found a niche and an application in nutritional as well,” he said – noting that conversely, some of the delivery systems that were initially developed for nutritional applications have started to be explored by pharmaceutical companies.
There has also been 'tremendous growth' in the use of multi-particulate formulations, which can combine multiple ingredients into a single dosage form without affecting stability, taste, or shelf life, he said.
“More recently, the use of micronisation has also begun to improve bio-availability in nutritional, again after starting life in the pharmaceutical sciences,” noted Schutzer.
"Having said that, there are a number of small start-ups in the nutritional space that are focused on personalised nutrition and they are developing applications whereby a consumer can understand more about his or her body chemistry, and what type of supplements would be of more value to them,” he said.
“It's primarily something that is starting in the nutritional space, [but] it may well go into pharmaceuticals.”
The Lonza SVP noted that while pharmaceutical applications for personalised insights and therapies would have to be a lot more developed, and would probably be developed with a different regulatory framework in mind, the clear applications in pharmaceuticals are ‘an intriguing notion.’
“We will likely see parallel routes, both in the nutritional and pharmaceutical areas. Maybe at one point converging" he said – noting that personalisation is an area where Lonza has a lot of science and investment.
“I think that this notion of patient-centric treatment, and personalisation is something that we are in the early stages of developing,” he suggested.
“This is a new area that in maybe 10 years from now we will be talking about things that you and I cannot even put on a piece of paper or describe today.”