At this rate, we're hardly going to be able to call the world's largest generic-drug maker, Teva Pharmaceuticals (NAS: TEVA) , a generic-drug maker at all. In the fourth quarter, branded products at Teva made up 40% of sales, up from 30% in the year-ago quarter.
The additional branded products came from its acquisition of Cephalon last year, but Teva's legacy branded drugs also contributed to the 27% increase in branded sales. Multiple sclerosis drug Copaxone jumped 11%, and respiratory drugs ProAir and Qvar were up 26% and 27%, respectively.
Generics weren't exactly lagging, up 12% in the fourth quarter. The only weak spot was the U.S., where sales fell 5% despite launches of a generic version of Eli Lilly's (NYS: LLY) Zyprexa and an agreement with Ranbaxy to launch its generic version of Pfizer's (NYS: PFE) Lipitor. The release of a generic version of Forest Labs' (NYS: FRX) Lexapro later this year should help. With the cutthroat market for pricing of U.S. generics, sales growth is very dependent on big launches.
Teva has also made a push into the over-the-counter business. While sales make up only a small portion of total revenue, they grew 19% during the quarter as its joint venture with Procter & Gamble (NYS: PG) ramps up.
This diversification was necessary if Teva was going to grow further. It's mastered the generic-drug space's bigger-is-better philosophy, but growth by acquisition can't continue forever. There are only so many generic-drug makers left and only so many new territories to move into.
But don't be lulled into thinking the added branded products make Teva less risky. If anything, I think increasing branded exposure makes the company more risky, considering that they expose the company to patent risk. Yes, Teva already faced that problem with Copaxone, which made up 18% of the company's revenue in 2010. Teva is now less dependent on Copaxone, but it's more dependent in general on branded products and their patents.
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At the time this article was published Fool contributor Brian Orelli holds no position in any company mentioned. Check out his holdings and a short bio. The Motley Fool owns shares of Teva Pharmaceutical Industries. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Pfizer, Procter & Gamble, and Teva Pharmaceutical Industries. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.
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