Botox and Us

We should not be surprised that in the Pfizer-Allergan deal, creating $150 billion of value across the global medicine chest that covers everything from diabetes, cardiovascular health and oncology, there is the particular fascination with and column inches dedicated to Botox, the Allergan product to deal with wrinkles in our skin. One billion of us on the planet over 60 means that the market for healthy looking skin is huge and growing - 2 billion of us over 60 by 2050. What's surprising is that more companies, in any sector are not looking at longevity as a market opportunity. Or as BlackRock recently noted in their White Paper, "Longevity Changes Everything" and could be a lever for commercial, workplace and workforce strategies.

But the thing about the Botox fascination is that because it is thought to be an affluent luxury, it masks the underlying idea about aging and health, most recently articulated by none other than the WHO in their new Ageing and Health Report. As the WHO has noted, with lives extending into our 80s, 90s and beyond as a matter of course, the importance of skin health to an active aging, is an essential part of any serious health strategy. The WHO idea is to restructure our health policy from the singular 20th century focus on combating disease - Communicable and Non-Communicable - to one dedicated to achieving functional ability that will have consequences beyond better health itself to broader societal goals of economic growth. The WHO has nothing less in its strategic sights than a "Decade of Healthy Ageing" from 2020-2030, when the world will be tipping to more old than young, a condition already present among the developed OECD countries on the planet. In this new paradigm - one that is a consequence of the profound demographic shift of population aging - fiscal sustainability and economic growth are only possible if we also shift our expectations of aging to engagement, activity, work and contribution.

This is where there is a new 21st century health approach to aging in such areas as skin, vision, hearing and muscle and bone mass. One way to get there, of course is to treat as friends, partners and collaborators the companies who are at the center of medical innovation that will fuel the functional ability we seek. The Pfizer-Allergan deal is happening precisely because there is a good management strategy to return more value to shareholders and in the process enable the resources for R&D that will give us many of the tools for a healthier and more active increased longevity.

If moving an official tax address from 42nd street to Technology Park, Dublin delivers that opportunity to the tune of tens of billions, why wouldn't Ian Read take that decision and why wouldn't we applaud it? How is it any different from the multitude of decisions we observe across industries and sectors where decision are being made that will benefit society, especially critical during this transformational moment? Perhaps think of it as a Fourth Industrial Revolution - characterized and driven by the two demographic legs of longevity and population aging?

Nestles' foray into health - its Nestle Skin Health recent acquisition and build out of its nutritional business - is itself built on the recognition of a grand new market based on an aging strategy. Or, take Intel, which is investing in innovative technology to enable telehealth for remote patient monitoring, a benefit to all of us, over and under 60 who will no longer have to travel to doctors' offices or hospitals for many diagnosis and treatment advice.

What all these companies have in common is their appreciation of the huge consumer need for products and services connected to our aging societies. The value this creates for shareholders comes from such strategic insights applied to the marketplace. We should welcome all of this, whether their address is in New York or Timbuktu.