Eisai is to cut 900 jobs and expand in the emerging markets as it starts to cope with losing patent protection on its Alzheimer's disease blockbuster Aricept.

The Japanese group is streamlining and refocusing US and European operations as it adapts to "the era of great globalisation". As a result, headcount in the USA will go from 1,600 to 1,000 by the end of fiscal year 2015 (ie March 2016), and 200 jobs will be cut in Europe to around 700. Some 100 will go in Japan.

East Asia is the main market Eisai is looking to conquer, especially China, and the company has also targeted India, Brazil, Russia and Canada as areas of growth, though it has no direct presence in the last three markets yet. The company has been dependent on Aricept (donepezil), but the Alzheimer's drug went off-patent in the USA in November. Another former growth driver, the proton pump inhibitor Aciphex/Pariet (rabeprazole) has been battered by generic competition so Eisai says the business will now focus on oncology, liver diseases and epilepsy.

It hopes that new growth will be driven by the likes of Halaven (eribulin), its breast cancer drug that was recently approved by the US Food and Drug Administration, and perampanel, for epilepsy. In the near-term, the loss of Aricept means that Eisai is expecting flat revenues of around 800 billion yen (about $9.7 billion) over the next five years.

In other Eisai news, the Tokyo-headquartered group is delaying the domestic launch of NerBloc, a botulinum toxin type B neuromuscular-blocking agent approved in Japan last month for the treatment of cervical dystonia.

The company says that "under current circumstances it cannot ensure a stable supply of NerBloc due to manufacturing capacity-related issues that have arisen at the fill finish site contracted by the supplier". Eisai expressed its "deep regret for this delay".

In happier news, the FDA has approved the company’s anti-epileptic Banzel (rufinamide) in liquid form for the treatment of seizures associated with Lennox-Gastaut syndrome in children over four and adults. It is bioequivalent to the currently-marketed Banzel tablets and will be available in the USA later this month.