OSAKA -- Medical equipment maker Nipro will boost production of filters used in dialysis treatments twofold in China, aiming to tap into the country's growing number of diabetes cases.
The cylindrical dialyzer serves as an artificial kidney for patients with kidney failure -- common among diabetics -- to filter out waste in their blood.
The Japanese company will spend around 4 billion yen ($35.8 million) to install new production lines this year at its Anhui Province factory operated by Nipro Medical (Hefei). The new lines, which will be up and running as early as October, will help Nipro raise its annual output capacity to 12 million units. It aims to supply a fourth of China's dialyzer demand, which the company estimates at 48 million units annually.
China had roughly 440,000 dialysis patients in 2016, up 80% over five years, according to Nipro. While dialysis treatment has spread in China's urban areas along the coast, those further inland still lack access due to a shortage of doctors and equipment.
Nipro expects there are more undiagnosed patients in China, and projects the number of cases to climb by 10-15% annually. In preparation, it has set up four facilities in cities such as Beijing and Shanghai to train medical staff. The company also hopes to build out its distributor network, from 38 currently to around 100 over the next several years.
Nipro currently holds 20% of the world's dialyzer market. The Osaka-based company aims to catch up to market leader Fresenius Medical Care of Germany by "raising its global share to 40%," said President Yoshihiko Sano.
All eyes on China's diabetics
Other Japanese dialyzer producers have also entered the Chinese market. At the end of last month, Toray Industries began shipments from a Shandong Province factory with a 5-million-unit annual capacity.
Asahi Kasei Medical produces artificial kidneys at its Zhejiang Province plant in China, where the Asahi Kasei unit projects higher profit margins than in other markets such as Southeast Asia.
There are about 100 million diabetics in China, according to the International Diabetes Federation. The count is continuing to rise as diets change in conjunction with economic growth.