Japanese pharma loads up on reps in China

Japanese drugmakers are looking to beef up their sales forces in China in a big way. Astellas Pharma is plotting to double its 300-strong contingent of reps to more than 600 by 2014. Meanwhile, Eisai is plotting to boost its marketing force to 1,000 by next year and to 1,400 by 2013; that's up from 730 now.

Obviously, both companies also have big goals for increasing sales in China. Astellas is looking to double sales over the next five years; Eisai wants to double its fiscal 2010 revenues to more than 40 billion yen ($434 million) in fiscal 2012.

Just as obviously, these companies aren't alone in their ambitions for China. Almost everyone who's anyone in the drugs business has a plan to capture part of the big growth in Chinese healthcare spending that's expected over the coming years. Bayer is stepping up its product launches. Pfizer is aiming to get 3,200 reps on the ground in China by the end of next year, up from 2,300 now, and it looking for strategic partners. Eli Lilly is hiring hundreds of sales reps there. Novartis is recruiting and making deals, too.

- read the Reuters story