Analysts question Teva's blockbuster expectations on drug makeovers

Teva CEO Jeremy Levin

Teva's new CEO, Jeremy Levin, has been touting the company's plan to come up with a pipeline of late-stage drugs that take well-known medicines and give them a makeover for new uses. Levin tells Bloomberg that the R&D strategy, initially laid out last December, will be worth billions. But several of the analysts following the company want to see some solid proof that Teva ($TEVA) can pull it off before they give it a stamp of approval.

"Teva is trying to re-coin an existing strategy," Bernstein's Ronny Gal tells Bloomberg. "Our answer to that is: 'Sure, let me know what those drugs are and I'll give you credit for them on a case-by-case scenario.'"  

Teva's plan is simple. By taking older drugs with a clear safety profile and repurposing them, the company can steal a march straight into late-stage studies. Their investigators will have a solid idea of what the drug can do and just how safe it is. And new data can win new approvals for pricey new drugs.

As it stands now, Teva tells Bloomberg that the company will tap 10 to 15 new programs for development this year. The programs will take a maximum of 5 years to get through the clinic--relatively quick if you consider the pace of drug development over the past decade--and some won't even have to go through a Phase III in order to win approval.

One of the reasons why the jury is out on Levin's plan, and will stay out for some time, is that it flies in the face of a major trend in pharma spending. Payers aren't all that anxious to cover branded prices for new therapies whipped up from a wide field of cheap generic drugs. And with Europe's single-payer system applying more and more pressure on prices as U.S. insurers work up new formulary strategies for expensive drugs, Teva would seem to be on a direct path to confront some very powerful market forces.

- here's the feature from Bloomberg

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