Monday, November 3, 2008

Obama’s Won, Now What?

OK, I’m getting ahead of myself, but only by a little. I understand that I have to wait for the votes to be cast and then counted for the rest of the world to know what I do today – Barack Obama will be the next President of the United States.

I’m going to leave the significance of this momentous event to the historians and the pundits. I want to talk about what this means to the people who read this blog. What happens to the Life Sciences/Pharmaceutical Industry now that we have a new Democratic President? Actually, a lot depends on what happens in the Congress and the Senate. If the Democrats can achieve a filibuster proof majority in both Houses then President-elect Obama is sitting in the catbird seat. Without these, a lot’s possible but it won’t be as easy.

Let’s start with Big Pharma. In my last blog, I forecast tough times ahead, if not an actual overhaul of the business model:

We may see a very significant decrease in private funding of major new drugs.

Mergers or acquisitions? Especially with target companies valuations falling? Not likely, unfortunately, given the state of the markets, mergers and acquisitions, except in the financial services industry, are practically nonexistent.

New drug pipelines that are already running dry. The FDA has not exactly been setting records for new drug approvals despite record R&D spending by Big Pharma. Are we to believe that the promised "new regulations" will help or hinder FDA cycles--we would strongly suggest that things will get worse for a while and approvals will be even more difficult and slower.

We think that 2009 will probably show declining revenues for the major drug companies, dramatically so if the ambitious plans for universal health insurance and concentration of buying power occurs--in fact Obama may be a breath of fresh air here compared with the McCain campaign promises (more like threats) toward big Pharma. Profits will depend on how well they manage their cost cutting programs. I won’t even go into what the foreign exchange markets’ impact could be.

Next, let’s talk about outsourcing companies. Here the damage may be even bigger than just the pharmaceutical industry. With a new President talking about giving preferential tax rates to companies that bring jobs back to America, folks might not be so quick to outsource/offshore jobs as they once were. (Remember that filibuster-proof Congress?). The other side of that equation is the possibility that R&D done offshore certainly will be more cost attractive and therefore may still be compelling.

Now, let’s talk about consulting firms. These guys are normally pretty good at playing it whichever way it lays. There is a unique problem this time, two things are working against them:

First, I don’t think the drug companies have figured out what to do next. They won’t spend until they do.
Second, with cost cutting (efficiency) programs being put in place as a response to declining revenues, there is another good reason not to spend money on consultants without laser4 focused projects. So, there is another industry segment could be in for a hard time.

This will be my final blog entry before Election Day. Assuming I’m right about the outcome, we’ll have a lot to talk about in the next few months. If I’m wrong, I’ll get over it and figure out what could happen next.

As always, we welcome your feedback. Please contact us at We look forward to hearing from you.

Contributed by Guy de Lastin

No comments: