Bayer in Push to Lift US Profile

06.04.2016 -

With its expanded consumer healthcare portfolio in mind following the $14 billion acquisition of the relevant Merck & Co business in 2004, Bayer is striving to lift its profile in the US, the world's biggest drug market.

The German giant, now focused solely on life sciences after spinning off its engineering plastics sub-group MaterialScience into the standalone Covestro last year, plans to widen marketing and research efforts for both counter and ethical drugs medicines and increase the share of its OTC products in US pharmacies and grocery stores.

As another part of the plan, Bayer has also boosted its marketing and social media efforts and has doubled spending on television advertising for some of its consumer brands against the 2010 figure. It is also offering discount coupons, a practice barred to the company in its home market.

The cross logo is now being used on all of the company’s products sold in the US, rather than just Aspirin. This is all the more significant as Bayer was barred from using the logo in the US in any form between the confiscation of its US assets during World War I and its reacquisition of the rights in a $1 billion takeover deal for the OTC drugs business of Sterling Winthrop, the brand’s then-owner, in 1996.

“I hope that over the next few years, people will learn that Bayer is more than aspirin,” Phil Blake, the company’s US president and head of pharmaceuticals for the Americas, told the news agency Associated Press (AP). Bayer’s original Aspirin brand, patented in 1899, holds a 62% share of the US market for drugs marketed by other companies as aspirin.

Following the Bayer confiscation, the brand name became a generic.

“The US is the most important country for Bayer,” global innovation chief, Kemal Malik, said.

On the ethical drugs side, Bayer is now involved in more research collaborations in the US, including a deal with Johns Hopkins University to develop medicines for vision-damaging diseases. It also has a partnership with Massachusetts start-up CRISPR Therapeutics to develop therapies for blood disorders, blindness and other conditions.

Additionally, the German group funds a San Francisco project incubator that houses startups developing experimental medicines and related technology. In partnership with the American Association for Cancer Research it is providing funding for US research.

Bayer hopes its newest medicines, which include the cancer drugs Xofigo and Stivarga, the anticoagulant Xarelto, the age-related macular degeneration treatment Eylea and the pulmonary hypertension drug Adempas, will reinvigorate its US prescription drug franchise still suffering from image problems after the 2001 recall of the cholesterol drug Baycol (Lipobay).