Pfizer eyes more Chinese partners to speed growth

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Everyone in pharma wants a piece of China. In spite of recent price cuts, China remains one of the fastest-growing drug markets in the world. The question is, what piece? And how can it be had? Apparently, Pfizer ($PFE) believes its best route to Chinese growth still lies with a series of partnerships.

As The Wall Street Journal reports, the U.S.-based drugmaker figures it can't grow fast enough in China on its own. The company already has a joint venture to develop generic drugs with Zhejiang Hisun Pharmaceuticals and a minority stake in Shanghai Pharmaceuticals, a key drug distributor. The company plans to double the staffing at its JV with Hisun, and it's working to pump up Prevenar vaccine sales in rural China with Shanghai Pharma's help.

Wu Xiaobing, Pfizer's top official in China

But it still wants more, says Wu Xiaobing, Pfizer's top official in China. "We're open for collaboration," Wu told the WSJ. "If we were alone, it would take such a long time to make our drugs accessible to patients."

Big Pharma has taken a variety of approaches to gaining market share in China. Novartis ($NVS) is in the process of investing $1.25 billion in two facilities there; it's constructing a $250 million R&D and manufacturing center in Changshu and spending another $1 billion over 5 years to beef up its Shanghai R&D operations. The Swiss drugmaker is also staffing up on the sales and marketing side. Merck ($MRK) just inked a joint venture with Simcere Pharmaceutical ($SCR) to develop and market drugs.

- see the WSJ piece (sub. req.)

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