Eisai plots to replace Aricept billions

It's not just the biggest of Big Pharma looking to cope with patent loss. Japan's Eisai announced it expects annual U.S. sales of its lead drug--the Alzheimer's remedy Aricept--to drop by 60 percent in three years. That's because the drug's patent expires later this year, and generics makers now readying themselves to pounce.

So, from $2 billion in sales for the 12 months that end in March 2011, Aricept's U.S. revenues are expected to plummet to $800 million in the year that ends March 2013. The loss of $1.2 billion in sales isn't exactly as big a loss of a drug like Lipitor, Pfizer's flagship med and the current bestseller in the world. But then Eisai, as Japan's fourth-largest drugmaker, isn't exactly as big as Pfizer, either, so it has less to fall back on.

But the company says it's up to the task of making up the difference via organic growth. "We have mapped out a plan ... under which we will recover its impact by the fiscal year 2012 (which ends March 2013) and will return to a growth track by the fiscal year 2013," President Haruo Naito said at a news conference (as quoted by Reuters).

Part of the plan: Launching four drugs in the U.S. during the fiscal year that starts April 1. Also part: Growing sales of existing drugs in the U.S., and expanding in both its home market of Japan and in China.

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