As general counsel of US generics at Teva Pharmaceuticals, the most prominent name in the world of generic pharmaceuticals, Brian Savage considers himself as much a business counselor as a lawyer. And indeed, Savage’s knowledge of the pharmaceutical marketplace and critical insights into business operations have enabled him to walk a fine line at Teva, where company leaders aim to balance their production of both specialty and generic products.
Savage has always been fascinated by the law, particularly as it is applies within the healthcare space. “The science of it all is really interesting, and because it’s so highly regulated, there is a lot to navigate from a legal perspective,” explains the GC, who worked as an associate at Dechert LLP after graduating from Yale Law School in 2009. “All this complexity makes our work both challenging and engaging—from R&D planning to the approval process to bringing products to market, there are so many pieces to the puzzle.”
But the highly regulated nature of the pharmaceutical industry means more than just an interesting challenge, Savage notes. Because healthcare rules and laws are constantly evolving, lawyers working within pharma must “always be on their toes,” he says, “able to give sound legal advice on just a moment’s notice.”
“Brian handles numerous commercial and antitrust cases for Teva and dives into each one as deeply as his outside counsel,” says Jay P. Lefkowitz, litigation partner for Kirkland & Ellis LLP. “That makes him an invaluable partner, whether developing strategy, preparing for arguments, or negotiating settlements.”
Even greater flexibility and adaptability is expected of the lawyers at Teva, Savage says. Teva may be known for its generic products, but it sells specialty products as well. When Savage first joined the company as executive counsel in 2015, there was a clear dividing line between the two areas of business. In one sense, that line still exists, since Savage primarily supports Teva’s generics business. “But,” he says, “we have made a strategic choice to really break down those barriers and view ourselves as one company with a singular set of goals that we’re all working towards.”
“The thought is that we can maximize our success—and best serve patients’ needs—by collaborating more closely together. We want to make sure not only that the right hand knows what the left hand is doing but also that both hands are working together to achieve our common goals.”
That effort—to make Teva’s business operations more cohesive—can present Savage and his legal team with a number of different challenges. As he describes, there are certain decisions that he and his colleagues might make if they were focused only on the generic side of the business. But, those same decisions could also affect the specialty side of the business as well, and the impacts on both need to be carefully considered: “You have to be careful, deliberate, and mindful of all the possibilities when you’re formulating legal arguments and taking legal positions.”
It is therefore a great help, Savage points out, to able to work across the aisle with his colleagues in the specialty side of Teva’s business. “Having that kind of collaboration is pretty neat,” he offers. “We all exist in both spaces, really.”
“We can’t let ourselves lose sight of our role in the healthcare industry . . . At the end of the day, we’re in a line of work that fundamentally exists to help people.”
There are also more specific reasons for Teva’s breakdown of the barriers between the specialty and generic businesses Savage emphasizes. Among them is the company’s work in the biosimilars market, where Teva has an advantage over companies that focus solely on specialty or generic products.
“Biosimilars occupy a kind of middle space between specialty and generics, which creates opportunities for companies like Teva that have expertise in both areas,” Savage says. “In the US, the biosimilars market is still ramping up in many ways, so it’s a really exciting time. The products themselves are relatively new, and so are the laws that have been implemented in the past few years to encourage their development and commercialization.”
But through all of the challenges inherent in a fast-moving industry like healthcare, Savage urges his fellow attorneys to remain focused on the bigger picture. “We’re always busy, and there are always new laws to analyze, and new regulations to review,” he says. “But we can’t lose sight of our role in the healthcare industry. As an in-house lawyer, you support a business and need to keep your eyes on the prize.
“At Teva, we’re trying to help people, to make innovative new medicines and make them better, cheaper, and more available to the patients who need them,” Savage continues. “At the end of the day, we’re in a line of work that fundamentally exists to help people.”