Brazil’s Largest Private Pharma Company Under Threat


Founded in 1950, EMS is one of the top two domestic pharma companies in Brazil. As a key player in the largest and most populous nation in Latin America, the company has around 13 percent of the Brazilian market share with gross sales of USD 2.5 billion in 2019.


The company’s portfolio includes products in the segments of medical prescription, generics, branded medicines, OTC and hospital.


In contrast with its fiercest local rival, Aché, the company is 100 percent privately owned. It belongs to NC Group, one of Brazil’s the largest conglomerates. The pharma arm of the group exports to over 40 countries and holds more than 90 patents around the world.


But recent acquisitions in the market threatens their position. Last year, after months of negotiations, the company failed to reach an agreement with Japanese Takeda to buy 18 products for the Brazilian market. Instead, rival Hypera Pharma bought them for a reported USD 825 million, including the painkiller Neosaldina, as well as the motion sickness treatment Dramin and diabetes drug Nesina. Hypera’s shares soared after the news broke, up 14 percent, and the company said that the transaction would make them the country’s top pharma company.


Whether EMS maintains its leadership position in the market remains to be seen, but the opportunities are expected to grow substantially. According to IQVIA, Brazil is currently the world’s ninth largest pharma market, but it is expected to reach the fifth position by 2023, surpassing all European markets except Germany. It is a “local” market after all, with six of the top ten largest companies in terms of revenue being domestic.


To reinforce its presence, EMS has been highly active during the COVID-19 pandemic. Last July, it financed a study published by the New England Journal of Medicine that found that hydroxychloroquine did not significantly help patients with mild to moderate COVID-19 disease. The study was conducted in 55 hospitals and included over 500 patients.


Moreover, EMS donated about USD 355,000 worth of medicines and hospital equipment to fight the pandemic in the region of Manaus.


EMS’ US affiliate, Brace Pharma, was created in order to invest in drug development in the American market, investing 80 percent of its portfolio funds in clinical phase projects and 20 percent in pre-clinical projects. Brace’s scientific committee counts Nobel laureate Eric Kandel as a member.

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