Healthcare: Pharma firms set to ride out recession

Healthcare agencies have received a boost from a report that suggests the pharmaceutical industry is well placed to weather the current financial crisis.

In a report called Opportunity Knocks for Big Pharma in Credit Crunch, released last week, market analysis company Datamonitor forecasts large pharma firms will ride out the credit crunch and could emerge stronger.

'Pharma companies are not only expected to weather the financial storm successfully but to also use this period to exploit their unique cash strength by embarking on an acquisition spree,' said Datamonitor head of company analysis Chris Phelps.

Last month, PRWeek reported that clients were beginning to slash PR budgets (PRWeek, 4 September).

Fishburn Hedges is one agency that has been hit by the cash squeeze, with client BT Global Services slashing its fees by more than ten per cent.

But Martin Ellis, chairman of healthcare shop Medicom, said: 'The pharma industry traditionally has its own economic cycle and prescription drugs are not typically affected by the economic situation.' However, he admitted consumer health could be affected.

Healthcare agencies Aurora and Virgo Health both insisted budgets had so far been largely untouched by the credit crunch.

Spink director Justin Wilkes added that the current financial turbulence meant agencies needed to prove the value of healthcare PR even more to ensure the sector remained buoyant.

He said: 'Clever PR produces highly effective returns from a smaller marketing investment and when the squeeze is put on marketing budgets there is huge potential to switch from other marketing disciplines to PR to help maintain and grow market share.'

But the Datamonitor report predicts a bleak outlook for small biotech companies.

'Under the cover of the credit crunch, big pharma will swoop repeatedly to acquire substantial biotech targets,' said Phelps. 'It may be that the credit crunch provides big pharma with the chance to rebuild its ailing pipelines.'

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