â€œManufacturing for AstraZeneca is not a core activity...AstraZeneca is about innovation and brand-building...There are lots of people and organizations that can manufacture better than we can. We would own the (intellectual property), the research, branding and the quality and safety issues...but (everything else) would be outsourced. The idea is to take out as many stages as you can...We are looking to access China and India in a much more meaningful way."
Today, the European press is carrying a disclaimer from the drugmaker, which appears to be greatly embarassed. The purpose of the interview was to speak with Smith about how the pharmaceutical sector "is looking to other industries for supply-chain practices and philosophies," PharmaTimes quotes an AZ spokeswoman.
An AZ spokeswoman writes us to say that "Fully outsourcing supply and manufacturing activities, as implied in the article, is not part of the AstraZeneca strategy. However, AstraZeneca will use outsourcing where there is a sound business case. For example, we are currently exploring the manufacture of active pharmaceutical ingredients...
"The delivery of high-quality medicines for patients remains the top priority for AZ and our global operations will continue to source activities in-house that are critical to keeping connected with the patient and essential to ensuring patient safety. Supply and manufacturing will continue to play an important role in this through delivery of a robust end-to-end supply chain."
So, what's going on here? Smith is a high-ranking exec who is privvy to such plans and was rather specific about the drugmaker's intentions. Credulity is strained to hear an explanation that Smith was speaking only in general terms about 'practices and philosophies' used by others. The former Estee Lauder and Timberland exec may have spoken out of school, but are we really to think he was misunderstood?
No, given that China is the world's leading supplier of adulterated medicines and toxic toys (just ask Mattel), perhaps Dave Brennan's team realized this isn't the time to confess that much of its own manufacturing will take place in the same country. An industry that is regularly battling charges over hiding trial data and improperly promoting meds doesn't need to open another front. AZ's publicity office, however, doesn't want to memorialize these concerns - there's still no statement on its web site.