Otsuka, Daiichi Sankyo boost investment in cancer medication
Japanese drugmakers to enhance capacity, efficiency for growing field
TOKYO -- Japan's leading pharmaceutical companies are stepping up investment toward developing and producing cancer medication, preparing for the expected long-term growth in the field domestically and abroad.
Otsuka Holdings will spend about 7 billion yen ($62.9 million) on new equipment that produces active ingredients in cancer drugs. The company will add a new production and research facility to subsidiary Taiho Pharmaceutical's Saitama plant, the core of its cancer unit. The new facility, set to open as early as 2019, will boost capacity tenfold thanks to equipment such as a large tank that can mix as much as 2,000 liters of ingredient.
Otsuka will be able to supply its own medicine starting with preclinical studies and initial clinical tests. Active ingredients in cancer medications are complex and thus difficult to develop. Taiho currently owns little equipment to produce such ingredients and relies on a contract manufacturing organization for this production. By making the drugs itself, Otsuka plans to slash the period from development to new drug application by at least six months.
Daiichi Sankyo will more than triple production capacity as soon as 2021 for biomedicine products, the foundation of its cancer business, and supply its own cancer medication starting with the clinical trial stage. The company will invest about 15 billion yen in equipment at three domestic plants.
In April, Daiichi Sankyo combined the research and production technology divisions for its biomedicine products. By the end of fiscal 2016, the company had 20 drug candidates beginning clinical trials. The drugmaker wants to flexibly provide medications that are in various stages of development, President Sunao Manabe said.
Major drugmakers such as Takeda Pharmaceutical and Chugai Pharmaceutical also are proceeding with in-house production of medications such as investigational drugs for cancer and other difficult fields.
Looking for new growth
The market for cancer medication is growing rapidly. Spending on cancer treatments in the world's major industrial nations will rise as much as 12% per year by 2021, according to estimates by American health information company Quintiles IMS. Japan's National Cancer Center Hospital estimates that new domestic cancer diagnoses topped 1 million annually for the first time last year, and that figure is expected to rise.
Continuing innovations in medicinal technology expand the options for doctors and patients, with the emergence of diagnostic drugs that help determine the most effective treatment in advance, medication that affects only cancer cells and treatments that use the body's immune system. Progress is steady even in areas such as lung cancer that are difficult to treat. Legislation and review systems are being studied to spur development of such drugs.
A declining number of markets combine the demand and technology to create major drugs. The development of cancer medication is plagued by ballooning costs and delays due to the use of complex chemical compounds and ingredients derived from other organisms. These investments to enhance efficiency in development and production help boost competitiveness.