Japan barreling toward its own patent cliff

Now it's Japan's turn--to feel the approaching patent cliff, that is. Whereas U.S. and European pharma has been suffering under generic competition--and the threat thereof--for several years now, the pain is just beginning in Japan, the Financial Times reports today. And investors are watching.

Take Takeda Pharmaceuticals. It's losing patent protection on its diabetes blockbuster Actos and on its gastric-reflux remedy Prevacid over the next couple of years. Eisai faces the loss of exclusivity on its Alzheimer's drug Aricept. And Astellas just watched its transplant drug Prograf slip out from under patent protection in the U.S., and its Euro-patents are set to expire next month, the FT reports.

Analysts are blunt about the problem. "Japanese companies have never been exposed to that much risk in the past," a Credit Suisse analyst told the FT. And though companies have been scouting for deals--think Daiichi Sankyo and its Ranbaxy buy or Astellas' bid for CV Therapeutics--that's a long-term fix, not something that will immediately fill in revenue gaps, the analyst said.

So what's the remedy? "What I'm looking at is domestic consolidation," said Fumiyoshi Sakai of Credit Suisee. "They have to cut down on expenses and could prepare for the generics erosion by consolidating, for example--making some sort of alliance to minimise the negative impact." Whatever happens, Japanese companies will definitely be scrambling.

- read the FT story