Pfizer aims for Japanese generics market

Yet another U.S. drugmaker is making eyes at Japan. Pfizer says it may storm the generics market there beginning in 2011 as part of an overall effort to diversify. Importantly, 2011 is also D-Day for Lipitor's patent expiration, which will blow a billion-dollar-plus hole in Pfizer's branded drug revenues.

Pfizer already has been making forays into generics in other markets. It has licensed generic drugs from India's Aurobindo Pharma and from Claris Lifesciences, Reuters notes, and now has the rights to sell 60 generics in more than 70 countries in the developing world and more than 100 in North America, Europe, Australia and New Zealand.

Japan is one of the biggest generics markets, largely because its government is aggressively working to push people toward copycat meds. Over the next three years, Japan's annual spending on generics is expected to grow to 705 billion yen, or $7.9 billion.

Initially, Pfizer's Japanese unit would handle 70 Pfizer meds whose patents have expired. Then it would branch out, seeking approval for meds copied from other firms, eventually boosting its generics catalog there to 100, MarketWatch reports. Currently, Novartis is the only foreign Big Pharma company handling generics in Japan, but you can bet that other companies are lining up.

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