Takeda Pharmaceutical Co. sees China becoming a “core country” for its global growth strategy, and is optimistic its $62 billion (¥6.94 trillion) acquisition of Shire PLC will win approval by the country’s regulators.
Takeda is preparing to begin selling seven new drugs in China in the next five years, more than in any other region, while working to secure reimbursement for them under the country’s medical insurance program, CEO Christophe Weber said in an interview in Beijing. He didn’t say how many drugs would be introduced in other markets in that period.
“There’s no reason in the long term China shouldn’t be our second-biggest business in the world,” Weber said. Takeda’s goal is to launch drugs in China “at the same tempo as all of our markets, especially Europe and U.S. It’s a big, big shift.”
Takeda is in the thick of getting approvals for its acquisition of U.K.-listed Shire from regulators around the globe. Weber said he’s optimistic about getting China’s sign-off for the deal, despite concerns that Beijing may retaliate against U.S. tariffs by delaying or even blocking acquisitions of American companies.
“It’s one thing to create an economic situation where people have less choice to buy your cars, but it’s totally different thing to restrict access to medicine, impacting patients and health,” Weber said. “My only wish is it doesn’t go there.”
While conducting the largest-ever overseas acquisition by a Japanese company, Takeda is also seeking growth in China, where the government is working to speed the approval process for drugs and widen access to health services and treatments. Health authorities in the country are negotiating with drugmakers to lower drug prices so that they can be reimbursed by medical insurance and affordable to patients.
China is now a “core country,” Weber said, and the company views it as on par with the U.S. and Europe in research, new drug approvals and reimbursement.
Demand for new therapies is surging in the country as the population ages and chronic diseases such as diabetes and cancer become more common. Takeda plans to introduce medicines such as Ninlaro, which treats a cancer of white blood cells called multiple myeloma.
China’s pharmaceutical market is second only to the U.S. in size, and expenditures are expected to grow as much as 8 percent per year to $170 billion in 2021, according to researcher QuintilesIMS. China’s medical imports stood at $28.7 billion in 2017, according to the General Administration of Customs.