PRINCETON, N.J. — A biochemist by training, Marc Kikuchi’s experience stretches across the entire landscape of the pharmaceutical industry. He’s run the gamut — from consultant to entrepreneur, from involvement in wholesale to working with generics — and now finds himself at the helm of North America Generics at Dr. Reddy’s Laboratories Ltd.
Kikuchi became the company’s chief executive officer and a board member on February 1, and in just those three months he has already immersed himself in advancing the company’s mission of making health care more affordable and accessible.
Before signing on with Dr. Reddy’s, Kikuchi had already established himself as an accomplished CEO and senior supply chain management and business development executive, logging more than 20 years of experience in the pharmaceutical industry with extensive knowledge and understanding of generics. Prior to joining Dr. Reddy’s, Kikuchi served as CEO for the Americas at Zydus Pharmaceuticals. He has also held professional leadership roles with AmerisourceBergen Corp., Medrad Inc., PRTM, Johnson & Johnson and Incyte Pharmaceuticals.
Kikuchi has an MBA from Carnegie Mellon University and a B.A. in molecular and cell biology with biochemistry emphasis from the University of California at Berkeley.
Kikuchi says after he announced his departure from Zydus he was ready to “ride off into the sunset” in terms of the pharmacy industry and focus his efforts on the nonprofit sector. But then he received a call from a headhunter about the opportunity with Dr. Reddy’s, and after meeting with the company’s top executives he realized he just couldn’t pass it up. “I really liked the company’s vision,” says Kikuchi, adding that he was inspired by its culture as well as its mission to make health care more affordable. Kikuchi says he was also excited be part of the mindset of driving the company toward becoming a global corporate force over the next five years or so. Generics, Kikuchi points out, will be one of the leading drivers of the company’s advancement, with a number of launches planned in the coming year. “That progressive mindset was enticing, and the opportunity to lead that was attractive to me,” he adds. “I really wanted to work in that culture and with people who shared that mindset.”
Growth in oncology will also contribute to the company’s expansion, according to Kikuchi, who says Dr. Reddy’s plans to introduce a number of new injectables. Expanding the portfolio in this area, he adds, will help the company push the generics business forward. At the same time, Kikuchi says Dr. Reddy’s will offer affordable generics for many branded drugs, furthering the company’s goal of lowering drug costs.
Dr. Reddy’s currently has more than 100 generic products, all equivalent to the brands. However, Kikuchi acknowledges that, when it comes to generics, the industry faces an image challenge — namely, the percentage increase of generics versus their branded counterparts. As Kikuchi explains, while generics have gone up more in percentage than branded drugs, they are still much cheaper. For instance, a generic drug that jumps from $2 to $20 represents a much larger percentage increase than a $500 branded drug that only goes up a few dollars, even though the price for the generic remains much lower. Still, Kikuchi says Dr. Reddy’s plans to work even harder to become more cost efficient by taking such measures as reducing the cost of manufacturing and reinvesting in quality systems. “We have to keep that leading edge,” he emphasizes.
Dr. Reddy’s, Kikuchi says, plans to target a number of key areas, such as specialty generics, oncology injectables, biosimilars and store brand over-the-counter products while sharpening its customer service. Committing to growth in the generics sector — especially while many others are moving away from generics — is one of the traits that makes Dr. Reddy’s strategy for growth a unique one, Kikuchi says. “We are also investing in our infrastructure for active ingredients and finished dosages, manufacturing and research,” he says. “We are investing more than 10% of revenues into R&D.”
But achieving the mission of lowering costs while continuing to grow wouldn’t be possible without the many partnerships Dr. Reddy’s enjoys, especially with its many retail customers. Dr. Reddy’s utilizes the expertise of its partners to help develop many of its products. But the retail sector is vital for the company’s success. “The vast majority of our products make their way through the retail and hospital systems,” Kikuchi says. “We rely heavily on our retail network, which includes big chains as well as regional and local ones.” Regional outlets, he adds, are critical to Dr. Reddy’s operating model. “Without them, our drugs couldn’t get to the patients.”
But it’s the pharmacists behind the counter that really prove to be the indispensable cog in the wheel that keeps the company turning, according to Kikuchi, as they are the ones who educate patients on generics and, more important, get those patients to trust them. “Today, 90% of prescriptions dispensed are generics,” Kikuchi says, adding that generics go through a rigorous and thorough vetting process by the Food and Drug Administration.
Part of Dr. Reddy’s vision is to become a leader in generics, and Kikuchi believes the company can achieve that vision. “We need to continue to focus on providing value to our customers and maintaining a broader portfolio and consistent supply,” he says.
Looking ahead, Kikuchi says Dr. Reddy’s is hoping to have 20 new products through 2019. “I’m really excited about them.”