While the emerging markets such as Brazil, Russia, India and China are regularly mentioned as the best areas for growth, GlaxoSmithKline’s chief executive has put the spotlight on Japan as a land of rising sales.

Speaking at the end of last week after presenting GSK’s financials for 2009, Mr Witty said that Japan is “really a developed emerging market, if I can put it that way. It's a tremendously sophisticated healthcare environment, a very substantial volume marketplace, with very reasonable prices”. He added that it is also, “at its heart, at the consumer level, a pro-innovation marketplace”.

However Mr Witty noted that “for many years companies, including this one, have found it difficult to navigate, if you will, some of the regulatory and other systems to find a way into the market”. Now, “over the last several years, we've really dedicated a specific focus in our R&D and particularly development organisation, to fix that”, he claimed.

Now the industry is seeing “wave after wave of major new products” introduced into the country so “the Japanese story really is an opportunity for us to introduce products which were introduced in America and Europe 10 years ago, to introduce today's products, and also to catch up on next-generation products”, Mr Witty said. Given this scenario, “we have, from the end of 2007 to the end of 2012, something like 40 products to launch, of which we've already launched about half”, he added.

Mr Witty went on to say that “we've also begun to make progress in opening up the vaccine market in Japan”, both through partnerships with local companies and institutes, but also by the Japanese government's decision to acquire some of their pandemic vaccine from GSK.

All of these factors “demonstrate that this big marketplace can actually become a big business for GSK”, Mr Witty concluded, “and Japan is something I expect to see sustained growth from in the future”.

For the fourth quarter, pharmaceutical turnover and operating profit in the Asia-Pacific/Japan region were up 28% and 22% to £809 million and £426 million, respectively.