Astellas forecasts big sales growth as prostate drug catches hold

Japan's drugmakers aren't any more immune to generic competition than U.S. pharma companies are. Still, the country's second- and third-largest drugmakers are predicting sales growth this year, even as low-cost copies drain away sales of their key products. New drugs are coming in to pick up the slack, the companies said.

As the Wall Street Journal reports, Astellas Pharma said it expects a 33% increase in net profits for its fiscal year ending next March. Daiichi Sankyo, meanwhile, forecasted a 2.1% rise in net income. Those expectations are in contrast with the No. 1 Japanese pharma, Takeda Pharmaceutical, which posted below-expectations earnings and unveiled a disappointing outlook for the coming year.

Astellas' expectations come after a 5.9% increase in profits for the fiscal year ended March 31. Those results fell short of previous forecasts, so the company's predictions aren't gospel. Still, sales grew by 3.7%, and operating profits grew by 17%, the WSJ notes. That's a far cry from the forecasted 33% increase, however; Astellas cited strong demand for its new prostate cancer drug Xtandi as one of the driving factors.

Meanwhile, Daiichi overcame a series of tough quarters, returning to a profit in the most recent period. The company posted net profits of 66.6 billion yen for the full fiscal year, or about  $654 million. For the coming fiscal year, Daiichi is looking for an 8.2% increase in sales, pointing to strength in its Alzheimer's drug Memary and stomach drug Nexium. To offset generic competition, the company plans to focus on expanding new products into more markets around the world and penetrating more deeply into Asia and Latin America, the WSJ says.

- see the WSJ story (sub. req.)