GSK, Daiichi team to develop, launch vaccines in Japan

Just last week, GlaxoSmithKline ($GSK) CEO Andrew Witty (photo) slighted European markets by touting Japan as a superior place to sell drugs these days. Japan's moves to speed new drugs to market and its slower price-cutting pace contrast favorably with ongoing austerity programs closer to GSK's home.

Now, it appears as if GSK already had plans to put its money behind Witty's comments. Japan's Nikkei newspaper reports that the U.K. drugmaker will form a 50-50 joint venture with Daiichi Sankyo. The drugmakers plan joint development and marketing of vaccines, Nikkei said (as reported by Reuters).

The JV will start by selling products from both companies that are already available in Japan, such as GSK's human papillomavirus shot Cervarix and Daiichi's flu vaccine, the news service says. But the larger aim will be to quickly develop and launch a number of products that aren't currently approved, such as GSK's anti-shingles shot and combination vaccines.

GSK isn't the only company seeing increased promise in Japan. Homegrown drugmaker Eisai recently said it would pull back in the U.S. and Europe and focus more on markets in East Asia. Japan had been "mature and stagnating," CEO Haruo Naito recently said, but is now "growing again" and "becoming more attractive."

- see the Nikkei report summary
- get more from Reuters