Japan's Sawai gets U.S. production with $1B deal for Upsher-Smith generics

Pills in pill container
Japan’s Sawai has seven generics manufacturing sites in Japan but will now have two in the U.S. after closing its $1.05 billion deal for the generics business of Upsher-Smith.

Japan’s Sawai is following the path trod by other drugmakers with big plans for the U.S., establishing a U.S. manufacturing beachhead by acquiring a U.S. generics operation.

Sawai, one of the largest generics manufacturers in Japan, has picked up two manufacturing facilities and a portfolio of generic drugs as it closes (PDF) its $1.05 billion deal for the generics operation of Minnesota-based Upsher-Smith.

The two announced the deal in April, saying Sawai would get a line of 30 approved drugs in the U.S., mostly oral solid dose products, as well as a pipeline of about 30 products. It also gets two manufacturing sites, one in Plymouth, Minnesota, and another in Denver, as well as about 500 employees. Sawai will maintain the Upsher-Smith name in the U.S. and Rusty Field, who has been president at the U.S. drugmaker, will now take on the CEO role for the new operation.

“Upsher-Smith’s manufacturing and commercial strength, strong distribution network and established relationships combined with Sawai’s research and development capabilities and state-of-the-art manufacturing technology provide the opportunity to further enhance our ability to bring high-quality, high-value generic pharmaceutical products to patients both in Japan and the United States,” Mitsuo Sawai, president of Sawai Pharmaceutical, said in a statement.

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Sawai has seven manufacturing sites in Japan. The deal will give Upsher access to that market, where the government is working to expand the use of generics to cut its healthcare bill.

Another Japanese drugmaker, Nichi-Iko Pharmaceutical, last year struck a $736 million deal to buy Schaumburg, Illinois-based sterile drugmaker Sagent, in hopes of being a player in the U.S. for biosimilars, as well as to advance the company’s goal of becoming a top 10 global player in generics.

For several years, drugmakers based outside of the U.S., particularly from India, have been snapping up U.S. operations to get closer to their key market.

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India’s Lupin recently completed expansion of a manufacturing site in New Jersey that it got in its $880 million buyout of Gavis Pharmaceuticals in 2015. Cipla got a 350,000-square-foot manufacturing plant in Long Island with its $550 million buyout of New York-based InvaGen Pharmaceuticals last year.