Pfizer Inc, the world's biggest drugmaker, said it expects its China business to grow by at least 25% this year and is forging partnerships to increase its share of the nation's fast-growing pharmaceuticals market.
“(Pfizer's business in) China is growing by 25 to 28%, while overall (growth) in emerging markets is 12 to 14%,” Jean-Michel Halfon, Pfizer's president of emerging markets for its biopharmaceutical business, told Reuters in an interview on Thursday.
“The market will continue to grow fast in China because of the growing middle-class population and, more importantly, healthcare reforms the Chinese government has implemented,” Halfon said. “We anticipate very strong growth there.”
Pfizer identified China, Brazil, India, Mexico, Russia and Turkey as key emerging markets and regarded China as the most important. The company said it expected revenue in China to grow by at least 25% in 2010.
“We want to do substantially better than that,” said Allan Gabor, regional president for Pfizer's emerging markets in North Asia, Pakistan and Indochina.
China is expected to become the world's third-largest pharmaceutical market by 2011, from ninth in 2003, according to prescription drug sales data provider IMS Health Inc.
Pfizer has a 2.2% share of China's highly fragmented pharmaceutical market, where multinationals compete with a staggering 6,000 domestic drugmakers.
“Our market share will go up for sure because our commitment is to grow faster than the market average,” said Gabor. “It will be higher than what it is today as we continue to execute our long-term strategy.”
In January, Pfizer said it planned to increase its presence in fast-growing underdeveloped markets and expected them to eventually yield solid profits.
Pfizer said it planned to increase its representatives in China -- many of them trained doctors -- by 39% to 3,200 in 252 cities by 2011, up from 2,300 in 177 cities last year.
These representatives would market Pfizer vaccines, anti-cancer drugs, anti-cholesterol medicine Lipitor, anti-hypertension drug Norvasc and antibiotic Zithromax, among other products, it said.
“They are medical information specialists and they are for sure trained in biosciences when we hire them,” Gabor said. “Many of them are doctors already and their job is to take the science and make it available and understandable.”
Another strategy was forging partnerships with universities, medical associations, government agencies and other drugmakers to expand Pfizer's business, Halfon said.
Pfizer is teaming up with Japan's Takeda Pharmaceutical Co Ltd's to help sell the latter's blockbuster Actos diabetes drug in China.
On Wednesday, Pfizer posted a disappointing profit and gave lackluster forecasts, with projected 2010 earnings below an average forecast by analysts, saying the strengthening dollar would crimp earnings. It underscored a generally uninspiring results season for the pharmaceutical industry, being squeezed by the loss of patent protection on many previous blockbuster drugs.
Analysts have said big pharmaceutical players face a tougher time in 2010, following windfall profits in 2009 from a swine flu pandemic that has turned out to be less deadly than feared. (Reuters)