TOKYO -- Gilead Sciences and Japan Tobacco signed a letter of intent to dissolve their licensing partnership, the cigarette company said Monday, as the U.S. drugmaker prepares to market a new HIV treatment in Japan on its own.
JT unit Torii Pharmaceutical produces and sells six HIV drugs for Gilead in Japan under the partnership, which dates to 2003. Torii's sales of the drugs totaled 19.7 billion yen ($177 million) last year.
But Gilead asked JT to terminate the licensing agreements ahead of the Japanese release of new HIV drug Biktarvy in early 2019. The tie-up may end around that time.
Biktarvy, deemed safer than existing options, generated U.S. sales of $183 million in the April-June quarter and likely will help Gilead expand market share in Japan. The California-based company will hire marketers in Japan devoted to HIV drug operations. Gilead markets the drugs primarily to large hospitals due to their high prices. Patients rely on a continuous supply, which leads to stable profits.
About 29,000 Japanese residents are infected with HIV, and the tally rises by about 1,000 yearly, Gilead says.
Gilead released its Harvoni hepatitis C treatment in Japan in September 2015, having sold around 500 billion yen to date.