Pharma sector set for change


IRELAND’S multinational pharmaceutical sector is well prepared for the changes that will beset the industry when a number of branded drugs come off patent next year, the chairman of the Irish Exporters’ Association has said.

Speaking at the publication of a report by Investec on Irish exports yesterday, John Whelan said pharmaceutical companies had been preparing for the change, and had a pipeline of new biologic drugs.

“The situation is not as serious as might have been a few years back. A number of large companies here have been moving into biologics in anticipation of the change, and Ireland now has one of the strongest clusters of biologics in the world.”

Pharmaceutical products accounted for 58 per cent of Ireland’s merchandise exports in the first half of this year, but concerns have been raised about the impact of falling sales on Ireland’s exports as their patents expire.

Mr Whelan also said that the decision by the previous government to cancel a trade mission to China last December may be hampering the present government’s efforts to rearrange a trip. Describing it as a “protocol issue” he said that although the decision to cancel the trip was due to Ireland’s serious financial situation, “from a major trading bloc’s point of view, they don’t see it that way, they see it as a major cancellation”.

According to a spokesman for the Department of the Taoiseach yesterday, the department is in discussions with Beijing about finalising a date for an Irish trade visit in 2012.

Yesterday’s report by Investec showed that exports continued to grow in the third quarter of the year, rising 0.4 per cent on a quarterly basis. The total value of exports in the third quarter stood at €22.7 billion, 1.7 per cent higher than the previous year.

However, the report warned that the euro zone troubles will negatively affect Irish exports in the coming quarters.

However, this will be offset somewhat by an improvement in Ireland’s competitiveness. “Economic growth in different countries is not the only factor that affects Ireland’s exports, the exporting country’s competitiveness also plays a role,” said Investec’s Philip Shaw.

Citing data from the Central Banks Harmonised Competitiveness Indicator, which shows that Irish goods have cheapened by more than 6 per cent over the past two years, Investec said the “continued improvement in cost competitiveness is likely to enhance the resilience of the exporting sectors in the face of a more challenging external environment”.