AZ's expanded China focus pays off

Big Pharma has been talking a lot lately about pushing into emerging markets, seeing as that's where the biggest growth prospects lie. But how, exactly, does a drugmaker go about doing that? The Wall Street Journal lifts the curtain on AstraZeneca's forays into China, particularly beyond the typical commercial strongholds in Beijing and Shanghai. AstraZeneca hired a local sales force--now 2,000 strong--and sent them into the hinterlands to spread the company message to hospitals and doctors.

The focus on fringe cities, such as Urumqi in in the far Western province of Xinjiang, proved fruitful. China sales mushroomed to $435 million last year from $85 million in 2001, making the company No. 1 in the Chinese market. And this foundation in China could position AstraZeneca to capture more than its share of the multibillion-dollar growth expected in China's prescription market. Don't think AstraZeneca's competitors haven't noticed; Novartis, for one, has beefed up its sales force and expanded the number of Chinese cities it targets.

- read the article in the WSJ