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January 30, 2007
So, could Bristol-Meyers Squibb really be merging with Sanofi-Aventis? Even though this is a poorly sourced story from one French paper, the answer is still: they certainly could. That deal has been kicked around for a long time now, partly as a way of making more out of the Plavix revenue stream. Both companies seem to feel as if their pipelines could use some help, and they're no doubt looking to realize some cost savings through layoffs and site closures. If the formal announcement came one day after a successful outcome in the Plavix patent case, it would surprise no one.
But does that make it a good idea? I've criticized Pfizer relentlessly for growing into such a leviathan, and I think that a Sanofi-Synthelabo-Hoechst-Marion-Roussel-Rhone-Poulenc-Rohrer-Marion-Merrill-Dow-Bristol-Meyers-Squibb might, just might, suffer from similar problems. I still think the research productivity is the thing that doesn't scale in these mergers, and research productivity has to increase, eventually, or the whole mighty monument is going to topple over. You have to have something to sell, and it should come from your own research. Going out and just buying the good stuff ends up raising its price - the good stuff is, naturally, in rather limited supply, and other companies might want it just as much as you do.
You can't buy your way out of trouble in research. More people and more money, after some point, can actually make things worse.
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