Dr. Reddy's Laboratories CEO of developed markets Alok Sonig makes Wall Street listen

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Alok Sonig, Dr. Reddy's chief executive officer of developed markets, knows the generics business does not need a cheerleader. It's one of the rare industry segments that prompts declarations of affection from patients, physicians, pharmacists and payers, if not companies with big-selling products approaching their patent D-Day. 

What the generics business needs, at least in marketing and financial circles, is somebody skilled at articulating its benefits and related charms. 

Perhaps that's why Sonig's featured speaking slot at January's JPMorgan Healthcare Conference generated so much buzz: An exec from one of the world's top generics drug companies spoke to both the segment's price-related benefits and its unheralded commitment to innovation. By all accounts, the talk went over well, affirming Sonig's credibility with Wall Street types.

When asked about the JPMorgan presentation, Sonig seems unable to resist the opportunity to restate some of its central themes. 

“Generics bring significant savings to the U.S. healthcare system — our drugs make up 90% of prescriptions but only 25% of the cost — yet there's still the need to make sure the government and buyer groups appreciate that value,” he notes. 

“Generics pricing is declining on a per-unit and per-dose basis. Almost all first- and second-line therapies across disease states have been addressed by generics medicines. This is a good place to be.”

An engineer by training, Sonig quickly identified healthcare as a business in which he could thrive. 

After a stint in the consultancy world working with healthcare bigs such as Pfizer, he accepted a job offer from Bristol-Myers Squibb.

“There wasn't a robust set of skills and tools available in pharma and healthcare marketing, so you had the chance to do things differently,” he recalls. “From what I had seen, [BMS] stayed true to building a marketing capability that enabled great research and development and significant brands for consumers. That was a good fit for me.”

Sonig's work on blockbuster brands such as Plavix and others in and around the cardiovascular and diabetes spaces elevated his profile quickly. 

But it was a three-year stint as a BMS managing director in India that confirmed to him that he was in the right line of work. “The role was critical in helping me understand the complexities of global healthcare,” he says.

Pharma lifer John Celentano, who worked with Sonig at BMS, recalls spending a week with him during his India tenure. 

“He clearly understood the needs of the market and the opportunities for the company, and had aligned the team around a strategy for success. I came away thinking, ‘Wow, he is pretty good at this,'” Celentano explains.

That global experience informs Sonig's current work at Dr. Reddy's Laboratories, where he focuses on fostering innovation and “creating a brand built around empathy and dynamism.” But while those two responsibilities may have motivated him to join Dr. Reddy's, he believes his role can and will encompass more.

“We've made a strategic choice to accelerate access to affordable innovation and complex generics,” he notes, pointing to injectable oncology drugs and products to combat opioid addiction as potential
areas of focus. Also, look for Dr. Reddy's to push deeper into developing biosimilars.

“Some of these are very complex for generics companies to make, but it's a challenge we want and [one on which] we can deliver,” he says. “I feel good about the sustainability of the generics industry.”

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