TOKYO -- Japanese pharmaceutical companies Shionogi and Astellas Pharma are looking to sell off drug brands that have lost patent protection in order to raise billions of yen for the development of new moneymakers.
Such off-patent drugs command higher prices than generic versions containing the same active ingredients. This makes the drugs a target for cuts to state-mandated prices as Japan's government promotes the use of generics to curb growth in public health-care spending.
Osaka-based Shionogi is moving to sell treatments for infectious diseases, gastrointestinal ailments and other conditions. The off-patent products account for about 10% of the company's domestic-market prescription drugs. Bidding apparently is in the final stage, with a drugmaker with close ties to GlaxoSmithKline among the interested buyers. Shionogi could select buyers at the end of July.
Proceeds from the sales, estimated at nearly 20 billion yen ($195 million), will go toward developing painkillers and treatments for influenza and other infectious diseases.
Tokyo-based Astellas could receive up to 50 billion yen by divesting several drugs, possibly including ulcer treatment Gaster, which generated 14.7 billion yen in sales in fiscal 2015. Prospective buyers include a generic-drug maker with operations in Japan and an investment company. Astellas seeks to decide on the buyers in the coming months.
Buyers of these drugs would take over the brands as well as government approval to sell them in a given market. Swiss drugmaker Novartis is in talks to sell drugs that are off-patent in Japan to an Indian generics maker. The leading Japanese drug company by sales, Takeda Pharmaceutical, sold off about 30 products in April.
Japan's government wants the domestic pharmaceutical industry to stop relying on off-patent drugs and pursue new, cutting-edge treatments. Even top-ranked Takeda earns annual sales short of 2 trillion yen, compared with upward of 3 trillion yen at leading Western rivals that maintain well-funded research and acquisition programs to acquire new drugs.