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Sumitomo Dainippon eyes higher psychiatric drug sales in China

Japanese pharma to sharply increase sales reps to pave the way

OSAKA -- Sumitomo Dainippon Pharma will more than triple its medical representatives for psychiatric medications in China to about 100 people by 2022 to help ramp up sales amid expected growth in demand.

The Chinese market now amounts to just 100 billion yen ($886 million) or so a year as overall awareness of disorders like depression and schizophrenia remains low compared with Japan or the U.S. But this is seen changing going forward, resulting in more people seeking help and driving up demand for treatments.

Sumitomo Dainippon Pharma generated China sales of 17.6 billion yen for fiscal 2016, relying mostly on the Meropen antibiotic. Its annual sales of psychiatric medications there now languish at around 1.7 billion yen. And the company has just 30 medical representatives for psychiatric drugs to cover the entire nation.

It sees a need to bolster its ability to disseminate drug information to medical institutions and doctors as it aims to launch the Lonasen schizophrenia treatment in fiscal 2017 and the Latuda antipsychotic the following year. The ranks of medical representatives for psychiatric drugs will be expanded through new hires and transfers.

Sumitomo Dainippon Pharma established a local drug production unit in Suzhou, a city west of Shanghai, back in 2003. The operation now employs 689 people, including 390 medical representatives. It covers the Chinese market with 23 offices in Beijing, Shanghai and elsewhere.

Rival Japanese drugmakers are also taking on more medical representatives as part of efforts to strengthen sales operations. Takeda Pharmaceutical increased such personnel by 40% to some 1,400 from 2012 to 2016. It is gearing up to push medications for such lifestyle diseases as gastric ulcers and prostate cancer.

Astellas Pharma is readying Chinese sales of Xtandi, a promising prostate cancer drug. The company may add to its 740 medical representatives if demand warrants.

Eisai also has an eye on China, where it has increased employees by 30% to just under 2,000 over five years. The company said last month that a new-drug application there for its Lenvima cancer treatment had been accepted.

(Nikkei)

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