Seeking new cash cows: Otsuka to offer cancer drug in US as generics encroach
TOKYO — Otsuka Holdings plans to take a cancer drug to the U.S., aiming to prop up sales hurt by expiring patent protection on a psychiatric medication that accounts for 40% of its global sales.
The Japanese pharmaceutical company will launch Lonsurf on Oct. 5 through subsidiary Taiho Pharmaceutical, having obtained approval for the colorectal cancer treatment just days ago from the Food and Drug Administration. The drug is already available in Japan and known to have fewer side effects.
For the U.S. operation, Otsuka will add about 100 marketing staffers at a research unit. It also plans to offer the drug in Europe through midtier French pharmaceutical company Servier. Otsuka expects global sales of about 60 billion yen ($494 million) from the product in 2018.
Abilify, a schizophrenia drug, brought in sales of 507 billion yen for April to December of 2014. But for all of 2015, launches of generic rivals will likely push the tally down to 294 billion yen.
Pharmaceutical companies around the world have been focusing on cancer of late, thanks to advances in research that have made drug development easier. The global cancer drug market grew 12% on the year to $74.4 billion in 2014.
But patent expirations loom for the many Japanese drug companies that specialize in specific illnesses and treatments for such lifestyle diseases as diabetes.
To face the challenges of the future, more Japanese companies are joining their global peers in the shift to cancer. Otsuka will expand a Tokushima Prefecture plant to strengthen production capacity in cancer drugs for clinical trials. Takeda Pharmaceutical bought Millennium Pharmaceuticals of the U.S. in 2008. Astellas Pharma and Eisai have acquired foreign companies as well.