Tobacco giant turns into a health business

Updated: Apr 11

Tobacco giant Philip Morris plans to source more than half of its revenue from smokeless products by 2025. But their "beyond nicotine" strategy is even more radical than this. Philippe Morris is actively moving into the health space: In less than 2 months, the company has acquired the Danish company Fertin Pharma, the drug company OtiTopic, and has taken a major stake in Vectura.


  • Fertin Pharma creates innovative pharmaceutical and nutraceutical products based on our oral and intra-oral delivery systems. From product development to commercial supply, the company provides effective, convenient and pleasant products to support healthier living in different areas: oral health, energy, pain & allergy management, sleep & relaxation.

  • OtiTopic develops inhalable acetylsalicylic acid (ASA) treatment for acute myocardial infarction. Clinical data has shown that Asprihale catalyzed peak plasma concentration and inhibition of platelet aggregation in two minutes. That’s a significant improvement over the 20 minutes with traditional chewable aspirin. The product is expected to be filed for regulatory approval in 2022 already.

  • Vectura specialises in developing inhaled medications. Vectura Group, which has partnered with big pharma, including GlaxoSmithKline, Novartis, and Bayer, has helped develop 13 inhaled products currently on the market and 11 non-inhaled products.


This acquisition is part of PMI’s strategic plan to leverage its expertise, scientific know-how, and capabilities in inhalation to grow a pipeline of inhaled therapeutics and respiratory drug delivery Beyond Nicotine. With this strategy Philip Morris plans to build upon - what they call - world-class expertise in the research, development, and commercialization of aerosolization and inhalable devices to help speed the delivery of this exciting product to market.


The company also recently hired Sanofi's former Global Franchise Head Immunology, Oncology, Neurology. A seasoned pharma executive who has worked for companies like Sanofi Genzyme, Novartis, and Bristol Myers Squibb.

"There is no time like the present to plan for the future. We have a lot to offer in these new areas and it would be inconsistent with our scientific mission not to use our knowledge and embark into new areas."
Dr. Jorge Insuasty, Chief Life Science Officer, PMI




Healthusiasm Take >> It sure feels bitterly ironic if an arsonist is selling fire damage insurance. That is why Asthma UK, The British Lung Foundation, and about 35 other health and charitable organizations have shared their thoughts publicly. But why shouldn't tobacco companies be encouraged to reinvent themselves? How different is this from encouraging Oil companies to adopt renewable energy? There is a bitter taste to companies that would bring medication to people they have made sick with their products. And as long as cigarettes are the main source of revenue for Philip Morris, the company won't have much eagerness to let go of those (unless they sell that part of the business). It also won't offer the company much credit as long as cigarettes are being sold under the same corporate brand.

But as someone who is Healthusiastic about building a more healthy future, I can only applaud this type of business shift. Ever since the early eighties, people have been smoking less every year. If now the companies that are selling cigarettes are shifting gears, it can only bring a healthier world faster. When I wrote about "every business is a health business" in 2017, I envisioned that all companies would slowly be focusing on some elements of health. I could not even dream that tobacco giants would do the same less than 4 years later. I'll be on the lookout to see what other companies will be instigated by this move to become more dedicated to healthier products.