Sun Pharma turns to Mitsubishi Tanabe for help launching Novartis portfolio in Japan

India's Sun Pharma has a lot of new products on its hands after buying a block of Novartis drugs earlier this year, and it wants Mitsubishi Tanabe to get them on the radar in Japan.

The 14 brands--bought in a $293 million deal announced in March--cover a broad range of therapeutic categories and had annual sales of around $160 million. Sun Pharma says it will take responsibility for the products from October, marking its first foray into the Japanese market.

The brands covered by the Mitsubishi deal include Parkinson's disease treatment Parlodel, antifungal Lamisil and angina patch Nitroderm, which are due to go on sale in November. The other products will roll out in December and early 2017.

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Sun Pharma is in the throes of an expansion drive aimed at boosting its presence in international markets and in specialty pharma. The company has already absorbed Ranbaxy Laboratories in a $4 billion deal--which brought its own problems, but gave Sun Pharma an immediate boost in the U.S. market. The drugmaker also wants a slice of Japan, where Indian companies are generally considered to be under-represented.

At the time the Novartis drug buy was first announced, Sun conceded it would need to enlist the aid of a local marketing partner. With Mitsubishi Tanabe, it has recruited a top 10 pharma company with an established presence in the specialty pharma category.

A Livemint report notes that Lupin Laboratories is the only Indian pharma group that now has a significant presence in Japan, with the country accounting for 12% of its annual revenues. 

That is surprising at first glance, given the Indian drug sector's export focus and Japan's status as the third-largest drug market, accounting for around 10% of global pharma sales. Japan remains primarily a proprietary drug market, however with generics--Indian's main pharma export--still prescribed much less than in other countries.

Government incentives to boost the use of generics and peg back rising healthcare costs are handing an opportunity to companies that can build distribution networks in Japan, something that Teva recently tapped into via its generics joint venture with Takeda. 

Now that Sun Pharma has set up a beachhead in Japan with its Mitsubishi Tanabe deal, local press reports have suggested other Indian companies--including Dr. Reddy's Laboratories and Glenmark--are looking in that direction as well. 

Related Articles:
Lupin's new M&A deals to strike at Indian rival Sun's perch in Japan
Takeda-Teva JV 'could be a trendsetter' as Japan pushes for generics: analyst
Japanese firms eye sale of patent-expired drugs to fund new blockbusters
Indian drugmakers eye Japanese market for acquisitions
Special report: Sun Pharmaceutical/Ranbaxy Laboratories
Novartis follows brand offloading trend, selling drugs in Japan to Sun

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